“Where did you meet?” goes the common question, to which the answer increasingly is, “Online.” In our thinking, cyberspace is, well, a space; a place to visit, run away to, maybe even inhabit. Terms such as chat “room,” web “site,” and “home” page speak to this notion. They present virtual life as a response to a “Where” question. But virtual life has also changed how we experience and manage time, and “Online” is just as valid a response to a “When” question.
Excessive Internet users, for example, have a hard time noticing the passage of time and often wonder how time just flew by as they sat in front of the browser window. Also, in e-mails, texts and tweets, we often shy away from reflection or writing that “takes time” in favor of speedy knee-jerk responses and posts. But the most pronounced effect may be how desperately we seem to want to fill up our time.
Our new concept of space may have expanded geography into novel territory—cyberspace—but our new concept of time is shrunken and preoccupied with making full use of this present moment. And what a busy moment it is, for it is given to fulfilling all the items on our to-do list simultaneously, through the miracle of multitasking. This involves putting digital technology to use in order to squeeze as many activities as possible out of the same timeslot (texting while driving, emailing a friend while taking a business call, or Facebooking while doing homework). As a result, our new time is not of the sequential sort that sees us progressing in tasks from A to B to C, but, rather, a point in time; one that blends work, play, and everything in between.