Is time relative?

As marketers we are fascinated by the passing of time, whether that be ‘time to market’ or ‘return on investment’ we are always looking to catch it, box it and analyse it!  

But the passing of time goes differently for everyone at all times, just like how an hour at the gym can feel like eternity but blink and you’re four seasons deep into the latest Netflix binge…I imagine!

Netflix is actually a great starting point to discuss this topic and to analyse how we consume media. For example as of June this year Netflix users spent 140 million hours every day watching their favourite shows. That’s equivalent to 15,981 years! Just to put that into perspective, 15,000 years ago the Magdalenian culture was working bones into harpoons!

Now from the seemingly endless vacuum of time that is Netflix, lets look at something us British do very well…queuing. Us Brits will average spend almost one whole year of our lives stuck in a queue. A study of 2,000 shows we wait patiently for food, traffic or the loo for a collective two hours and five minutes every week. There’s an irony here in a way, we have activities that take hours but seemingly go by in minutes and visa versa. But why does the perception of passing time change per person? Without delving into decaying speed of neutrons, the biggest factor is age. It’s no surprise that as we get older and become settled into our routines, life can feel as though it is speeding up. Psychologists call this ‘forward telescoping’ which is our tendency to think that past events have happened more recently than they actually have. A colleague of mine also suggests that when you have lived more life than you’ve theoretically got left, time becomes more precious and therefore in some way more valued or valuable.

Another answer to why we experience this is the ‘proportional theory’ which suggests that each time period accounts for a smaller fraction of your life. But there is also a biological side to this phenomenon, this is linked to our metabolism. The younger you are the more quickly your heart beats, lungs breath and blood flows round the body. Similar to a clock that is set to run 25% faster than normal, it can actually feel that more time has been covered throughout the day when in fact 24 hours is and will remain 86,400 seconds, no matter how old you are!

So with time constantly speeding up it’s more important to decide how to spend it and ensure you’re doing what you love, even if that is the latest box set!

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