In Search of Lost Time

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By: Maria Zoi Michailidou

From: Sciences Po Menton

If one thing in life is certain, it is that lost time is never found again. This is especially true in today’s society. Everyone seems to be too busy, doing something, going somewhere or meeting someone to stop and smell the roses. In fact, one of the most recurring problems of today’s world is the lack of time to do anything other than work. Yet, there are only 24 hours in a day, 8 of which are spent at work and another 8 which is supposedly allocated to sleeping. The calculations however don’t seem to be working out. What happened to the remaining 8 hours of the day? Where did all of this time vanish?

From a theoretical point of view, this question has fascinated scientists and philosophers all over the world. Ever since ancient times, people have wondered about the nature of time. In Ancient Greece, Aristotle thought that time was a kind of change or movement, even though he acknowledges that this is not exactly right (1). Einstein, in his Special Theory of Relativity claims that time is not absolute. Instead, he argues that time is relative and the rate at which it passes is dependent on one’s frame of reference, connecting time with space and gravity (2). These theories demonstrate that time as  a concept has both a theoretical and a scientific basis.

According to data published by the World Economic Forum, the answer is probably different from country to country. In France, for example, people allocate about 2 hours of their time to eating, with other Mediterranean countries following (3). Perhaps that has to do with the fact that food in that part of the world is seen as an important social activity. Another important aspect to consider would be gender disparity. According to the same data, women spend three times more time than men in unpaid labor, especially household chores. Therefore, this proves how difficult the task of classifying time-consuming activities is and explains the confusion around the matter.

Another very important factor to take into account when researching where lost time has gone is the use of social media. According to more data published by the World Economic Forum, the average user spends about 2 hours and 27 minutes per day checking their social media platforms (4). Despite the fact that the use of social media seemed to stagnate or diminish in the first quarter of 2021 compared to similar figures in 2018 and 2019, the pandemic altered these trends. In fact, figures show that there was a 20% increase in the time spent on social media after the pandemic (5). This can be attributed to an increase in the feelings of anxiety and isolation people had to deal with at the time. Overall, if one takes into account that the amount of time spent on social media is a bit more than a quarter of an average individual’s daily free time, one can definitely account for the lack of time.

In conclusion, time can easily be consumed by various miscellaneous activities. However, one cannot help but wonder how to regain the time lost. The answer is simple: there is no way to get it back. However, there is a way to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. This is why time management is so important and maintaining a viable schedule can ensure a more efficient and balanced lifestyle.

  1. Bostock, David. “Aristotle’s Account of Time.” Phronesis 25, no. 2 (1980): 148–69.
  2. American Museum of Natural History. ‘Einstein: Time Is Relative (to Your Frame of Reference) | AMNH’.
  3. World Economic Forum. ‘How Do People Spend Their Time? This Chart Takes a Global Look’, 16 December 2020.
  4. World Economic Forum. ‘Which Countries Spend the Most Time on Social Media?’, 29 April 2022. Cho, Hichang, Pengxiang Li, Annabel Ngien, Marion Grace Tan, Anfan Chen, και Elmie Nekmat. ‘The bright and dark sides of social media use during COVID-19 lockdown: Contrasting social media effects through social liability vs. social support’. Computers in Human Behavior 146 (September 2023): 107795.
Second year student in Sciences Po Paris, Menton campus.
More posts by Maria Zoi Michailidou.
In Search of Lost Time
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