Angry Birds Not a Time Waster

Fareed Zakaria thinks we're wasting too much time playing Angry Birds.

Fareed Zakaria notes of the Angry Birds phenomenon,

The world has wasted a total of 200,000 years playing the game – much of that in the last 12 months alone.

Just imagine what we could have accomplished if that time was spent productively.

But this misapprehends the nature of productivity. Yes, if people are spending six hours a day when they’re supposed to be working playing games on their phone, they’re being unproductive. But, presumably, most people who play games like Angry Birds on their phone do so in the way I do: killing a few minutes while waiting at the doctor’s office or some such. That time was previously mindnumbingly unproductive; now, it’s at least bearably spent.

Additionally, the notion that we should be spending all our time “being productive” isn’t based on the reality of the human brain. Most people perform better in complex mental tasks if they take frequent–but brief!–breaks from them. Spending three minutes playing a game every once in a while is almost surely better than starting at the computer screen all day.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    OTB is my Angry Birds. When I don’t want to do actual writing, or need to take a break, or have some idea stewing in the back of my brain, I click on OTB. Just think of the benefits in terms of innocent porcine lives.

  2. @michael reynolds: Have to agree with Michael. I use OTB to flex my sarcasm muscle and receive the enjoyment that I get from reading about and pointing out the blanket hypocrisy in people. 🙂

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I nominate Michael for Helmeted Pig.

  4. Matt says:

    Fareed needs to relax.

  5. You see, in Zakaria’s mind we were all put on this earth purely as tools to further his goals. Every second we spend on “mere” personal enjoyment is another second with stolen from him.

  6. Joel says:

    Of course, one might say we could have spent that time in the doctor’s office reading great literature or learning new things or sketching artistic ideas or whatever. But then that line of thinking raises the question of whether we’re ever allowed to relax.

  7. Nightrider says:

    He is forgetting to account for the benefit to society that we were only playing angry birds and not doing something that is actually counterproductive.