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Positive Vision - Day 96

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

DAY 5 - 2. Waste of Time — Yours and Others’ (Bitul z’man)

In assessing the damaging effects of digital technology, one important feature to be aware of is the “digital pull.” Aimless surfing, compulsive news checking, and excessive preoccupation with email and messaging are some examples of “digital pull” with which we are familiar. All the quality activities in which we need and want to engage
must compete with this “digital pull.”

The negative consequences of “digital pull” are several. Digital pursuits of little or no value rob us of time better spent learning, in pursuit of parnassah, engaging with family, and a host of other worthwhile pursuits.

These digital pursuits also undermine our performance as employees. How much of our employer’s time do we waste checking in on social networks, logging on to personal email accounts, shopping, monitoring the latest news and weather, and simply surfing the Web? How about our Smartphones? Between texting, messaging, shmoozing,
and reviewing apps, the average American is engaged with his or her Smartphone for three hours a day!

The problem is not just the quantity of time lost; the quality of our work suffers too. After every distraction we must regain focus in order for our work to be up to par. Is it okay to clock hours and charge for time in which we are completely uninvolved in work?

The Rambam concludes (Hilchos Sechirus 13:6-7): Just as the employer is warned against stealing his poor worker’s wages or withholding them, so a hired worker may not steal time from his employer — wasting a bit of time here and a bit of time there, until the whole day has been squandered in deceit.

Of course every employer understands that intermittent breaks are normal and even productive. Hakol k’minhag hamedinah — whatever is considered normal in general society is assumed to be the agreement between employer and employee, unless the contract between them stipulates otherwise (see Choshen Mishpat, siman 331).

But the amount of time being wasted has reached new highs … or lows. There is no way to justify wasting large amounts of time, even if “everyone else is doing it.”