Five reasons why procrastination quadrupled from 1978 to 2002

This article in The New Yorker casually mentions that admissions of problems with procrastination quadrupled between 1978 and 2002, then goes on to suggest a number of confidence-shattering explanations for human beings’ expertise in putting off anything remotely putoffable.

The author gives 5 reasons. But he doesn’t address the uptick from ’78 to ’02. Why, while looking at the blank pages of my Adjective American novel to be, am I increasingly fascinated with photos of funny cats or removing the white stickers from the bottom of the lovely white coffee mugs I bought at Bed, Bath and Beyond?

Here are the 5 reasons and my most scienterrific guesses about their rise, starting with the most mind-benderish one:

  1. We are actually made up of many different selves and the person who plans and the person who executes them are different people. These selves compete. The short-term self wins.

    Nowadays, we not only have a billion versions of our “self,” each one of them has a presence on the Internet. Online role-playing games. Chat clients. Dating sites. 20 different e-mail addresses. Facebook profiles, Twitter profiles, a profile for every Web site in the world. Result? More battles between short-term self and long-term self. Volume of victories and losses rises. Uptick accounted for. Scapegoat: Internet.

  2. Gap between effort and reward.

    This is a short-term/long-term thing. The Internet, by making so many social interactions instantaneous or faster, has greatly increased our appetite for the high of getting something done. We want it fast, or not at all. Something about “now” has changed, too. The present moment of Today, in stark contrast to the present moment of The Past, is overflowing with one trillion Other Things We Could Be Doing To Feel Good Right Now. We feel like we’re giving up more by sacrificing for the future because the Internet makes us exponentially more aware of our opportunity costs.

  3. So much to do that nothing is worth doing. So is anything worth doing at all?

    Yeah, I have a lot more to do because now I am eternally connected with every moment of my life. There is no past any more, only older files that could be recycled and renewed. The weekend is 500 choices instead of 5. The Internet, by easily providing information, has exploded the number of options we face in every aspect of our life. More existential crises are one result. Uptick accounted for. Scapegoat: Internet.

  4. Lack of confidence and self-handicapping. “Rather than risk failure, they (procrastinators) prefer to create conditions that make success impossible,” the article reads.

    Okay. The Internet, by increasing our social connections and awareness, gives us more decisions to make about what to do, who to meet, where to go. More things to fail at! More chances to self-handicap! Uptick accounted for. Scapegoat: Internet.

  5. Ignorance. We are not fully aware of the negative consequences of putting off a task.

    This one stumped me. Ignorance seems to be a constant, like people on their cell phone wandering into traffic in Manhattan is as sure as the sun. Maybe it’s that there are more things for people to be ignorant about; surf the Internet, and the discreteness of your experience is quickly apparent. Uptick accounted for. Scapegoat: Internet.

The Internet did it again.

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