Downtime

Between reading an article and watching a video, I almost always choose video if there were stable and free Wi-Fi and if I had my device charger.

I drew some hypotheses:

  • Videos do much of the thinking for us
  • Videos more quickly (though I think not as deeply) stimulates our brains through sound and sight
  • Videos move forward all the time, bringing us along for the ride; articles wait to be read

I succumb to wasting time watching TV shows and YouTube videos more often than I have the courage to admit. It sucks because a lot of time passes very quickly when I binge on videos.

But when it comes to reading, time passes slower, relatively speaking. I can finish reading four or five intellectually stimulating and informative articles on a site like The Conversation in 20 minutes.

By comparison, that’s the amount of time it takes to go through one-third of an episode on Narcos, by the end of which I’d have learned nothing extra (since I’ve already known how depressingly violent the drug trade is in Colombia) but have been thoroughly entertained.

To be sure, not everyone’s goal is to optimise their life around gathering information or being intellectually stimulated. Nor should insidious notions of productivity be everyone’s goal.

“Downtime” is a valid notion in my book, and videos provide the most accessible form of it. And with Netflix at $13 SGD per month for unlimited access to high-quality productions, it’s also almost as affordable as reading articles (mostly free).

What’s important here is that we learn to tell them apart. Watching Narcos should never be construed by our own self-deception as anything more than entertainment.

Defaulting to doing it at every available stretch of time is going to make one fantastically entertained but thoroughly unaccomplished. And we all seek to do something with our lives, right?


Also published on Medium.