sociology of time

The Sociology of Time

Got a second?

Most of us think of time as a static, objective force in our lives. A second is a second, an hour an hour, and a year is a year. We see ourselves as powerless against the march of time and know that eventually we will all run out of it. 

But the truth is, we all feel time differently while in different mental and physical states. Time seems to speed up or slow down depending on our situations. No two days really pass by the same. 

What if we were aware of the activities that slowed time down? Would we practice them? Could we use different strategies and habits as a way to live in a more perpetual state of slowness?

Below are a few discoveries about time and our perceptions of it. Which of these ring true to you and what is missing from this list?

  1. When we spend time in isolation, by ourselves and with no outside reference to time, time goes by almost half as fast. In 1962, Michael Siffre spent 59 days in self isolation in the French Alps. When he emerged, he guessed he had only been gone for 34 days. When asked to count off 120 seconds in 1 second intervals, it took him five minutes. 
  1. Enjoying good music seems to slow down time. Major-key positive music seems to increase this effect, while sadder minor-key tunes have less of this time-stretching ability. 
  1. People who can regulate their emotions, not letting themselves get too worked up or too beat down, experience a slowing of time when exposed to highly emotional situations.  
  1. People in their 20s seem to be able to count off time in pretty accurate increments, while people in their 60s overestimate time, suggesting time may go by 20% faster for older adults. 
  1. For people who have a negative orientation to life or who are going through a very negative and stressful period (a cancer diagnosis), time seems to drag by slowly. 
  1. Temperature seems to affect our perception of time. When we are hot, time speeds up, and when we are cold, it slows down. 

If you’re looking for a way to measure time and see time-based events clearly, check out, an interactive timeline tool for strategy and presentations.