There are numerous reports and studies that expose the extraordinary amount of time spent on the internet pursuing ‘leisure’ activities such as social networking. But has this trend organically evolved solely from our advances in technology or is something more – the beginning of a world-societal trend that has been destined to revolutionise the way in which we spend all of our time?

Pure Leisure
In 1974 John Neulinger published a book entitled The Psychology of Leisure in which he stated that human civilization was headed towards a future actually based upon leisure, where modern technology and science would allow the average individual to be free from worrying about the basic needs of subsistence and the notion of a ‘job’. At least, one’s job would only form a minimum part of any given day, the rest being spent on one or more of his six forms of activity. Those forms range from ‘pure leisure’ all the way to the opposite extreme of ‘pure job’.

Neulinger’s theory hinges on the notion of ‘perceived freedom’ which drills to the core that if you believe you want to do an activity (i.e. that it is your choice) and that the activity has an intrinsic reward, you will perceive that activity as a ‘leisure activity’. On the other hand, if you do not particularly want to do the activity, one which only involves an extrinsic (not part of the essential nature of someone or something) reward, this is deemed ‘non-leisure’ or ‘work’.

The beginning of a leisure society
Neulinger envisioned a world where the very concept of a ‘job’ was no longer plausible, where work would be leisure-oriented. The first steps to this vision would be in the dissemination of information where individuals could freely view what ‘job’ options were available, a society where the information of choice was not only freely given, but impossible to miss. We see ourselves at this juncture today. This leads to more direct choices of occupation – occupation based on the individuals’ choice (never mind skill set). Decades of permutations and technological advances later, we may see that many jobs have become ‘extinct’ in pursuit of more ‘enjoyable’ activities as occupations, which has certainly already happened, albeit to a much lesser extent than is projected from this point onwards.

We see ourselves moving rapidly away from the notion of ‘pure’ labour work to the greater proliferation of leisure work. Bearing in mind the consistent population increases (a direct result of technological advances), combined with the lack (or loss of) of traditional work roles (due to those advances, such as increased industrialisation) as well as the swell in availability of information, we can almost certainly predict the continuation of Neulinger’s theory.

So what can we draw from this? Well, we can predict an increase in jobs relating to the management and purveyance of leisure activities (such as in gaming, communications, gambling, sex, travel, housing) and development in new technologies that enhance these pleasurable activities (such as mobile technologies, increased security, and lighter tech for comfort) and anything that increases ease of use and simplification of user-interfaces will dominate many markets.

You may be thinking that this isn’t exactly the most positive outlook for the near future – a sociological theory dictating the overall laziness and self-gratification of society that would create a doped up society such as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. But there are options. One option is that we may hit a ‘leisure plateau’ from which we will see an oversaturation of ‘ease, use and information’ and begin to tear down exactly what it is that gave us our intrinsic rewards in the first place (these definitions obviously having evolved over time so that a modern man may not even recognise them). Another option is that we can learn from these advances and increase in leisure time, fully utilising this free time to ponder over the plight of the less able and less privileged, thereby making universal changes which would benefit us all. I’d like to think either would be possible.

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