A Day in the Life

First published January 4, 2007 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its new statistical abstract. According to the study, here’s how the average adult or teen will spend his or her time in 2007:

  • 65 days in front of the TV;
  • 41 days listening to the radio;
  • A little over a week on the Internet;
  • A week reading a daily newspaper; and
  • Another week listening to recorded music.

I have just one question: Who the hell are these people? Nobody I know.

The Census Bureau was unavailable for comment on the findings, so I have to make some assumptions. I’m assuming that the Internet time includes any work-related activity. So I tallied up my time on the Internet, actively using it, and found I averaged about 4 hours a day. Granted, I’m not a normal user (in oh-so-many ways) but bear with me. That means I spend almost 2 months on the Internet in a year.

Okay, I represent an extreme, and I realize that. So how about my wife, Jill? She is above average in nearly every regard, but when it comes to Internet use, is probably a closer approximation of your garden-variety user. Jill spends about an hour-and-a-half online a day. That puts her at just over 3 weeks of surfing in a year. My kids? About two-and-a-half hours a day, the majority of that chatting with umpteen zillion friends simultaneously on Messenger and butchering the English language I love, but I digress. That’s about five-and-a-half weeks in a year.

Perhaps the whole Hotchkiss family is abnormal when it comes to using the Net. Who are the least Net-savvy people I know? My Mom and Dad. Even they spend a half hour a day online, which puts even them slightly higher than the U.S. average.

Let’s attack the question in a different way. Let’s put together a day in the life of this mythical average American. According to the statistical abstract, here’s how his or her day is spent:

4.27 hours watching TV

2.7 hours listening to the radio

And roughly a half hour each surfing the Net, reading a newspaper and listening to music

Let’s assume that this person gets an average of 7.5 hours sleep and spends another 1.5 hours eating. That leaves fewer than 7 hours a day to do everything else, including being gainfully employed (unless their job is actually watching TV). Into that basket would fall things like reading a book, going for a walk with your family, hitting the gym, cleaning up the house, going on a vacation and talking with friends. Something seems askew here.

So I’m left with two possibilities. Either I have a warped view of the world because everyone I know represents the extreme end of the spectrum, or the U.S. Census Bureau has its facts wrong. If it’s the former, that means there are people, somewhere, that are really dragging down our collective average by remaining comatose in front of the TV for the better part of a day. I knew they existed, I just didn’t know there were so many of them. And it can’t really be the second possibility, can it? I mean, when’s the last time you remember the government getting its facts wrong?


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