Aug 22, 2022 • 18M

Is There Scientific Evidence for Timeblindness?

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Appears in this episode

Jesse Meadows
Re-politicizing mental health and embracing the weird
Episode details
two hot pink hands holding up an analog clock on a bright green background, but the clock and hands are glitched out, trippy, and hard to read the numbers

This week I bring you: a podcast! (I meant to post this on the weekend, but I was driving 20 hours to Florida and that turned out to be, um, too ambitious.) I’ve been really excited to experiment with audio and thought that it might make some of these boring studies more interesting if I just read the good parts to you, so here it is, the first episode of the SlugPod. It’s a work in progress, so let me know what you think. Transcript with sources linked is below.

INTRO [a montage of social media clips]:

YOUTUBER 1: So, okay, should we get into talking about timeblindness?

YOUTUBER 2: Yes, let’s do it. 

YOUTUBER 1: Okay, so just a quick definition, this is from Healthline, timeblindess is when one is not aware of the ticking of time and as a result, they often struggle to use time effectively.  

TIKTOKER 1: If you are tuning in and you are neurotypical, timeblindness is the inability to percieve time normally. 

YOUTUBER 3: It’s really the inability to percieve time. We don’t sense time in the normal fashion. 

TIKTOKER 2: Very long periods of time can feel very short, very short periods of time can feel very long. 

YOUTUBER 1: I’m consistently on time for my shows, you know, when it’s a professional thing I feel like something changes in my brain and I’m able to really focus and make it happen, but like, getting to appointments, meeting up with people, things that maybe feel a little less high stakes, I tend to run, prettty consistently, like five to ten minutes late. 

TIKTOKER 3: Basically, all my life, I’ve felt like I’m running out of time. And I remember saying this all the time to the people around me like whenever I was stressed or would break down or whatever, my mom would be like, what’s wrong with you? And I’d just be like, [frantically] I’m running out of time and I just have so many things to do!

TIKTOKER 4: You guys wanna know about timeblindness? Here’s an example that just happened. So I saw that it was like 12:30 and I’m like, oh no, I have to film a video before one o’clock, when I’m supposed to post. And then my alarm for 1 went off, like 2 minutes later, cause I’ve been sitting, staring at the wall. 

YOUTUBER 3: The point is, it just seems like time is slipping away from me always. That’s timeblindness. 

[funky music interlude]

JESS: Timeblindness is all over social media, and it’s been bothering me for a while now, because even the laws of physics deny such a thing as objective time. Einstein taught us that time is relative. Clocks tick at different speeds depending on their elevation from sea level and the speed that they’re traveling. We perceive time to move slower or faster depending on our moods and attention spans. There’s no universal time to be blind to. It really depends how you’re measuring it and also, who’s doing the measuring. 

What people mean when they say timeblind is that they struggle with clock time, a sort of timekeeping that came out of the Industrial Revolution because factories needed a way to manage their workers. 

Maybe I’m taking it too literally though, because the way everyone uses it does tend to sound more like a metaphor. They’re expressing a sense of temporal disharmony, feeling out of step with the world around them. 

An anthropologist named Mikka Neilsen did some interesting ethnographic work on ADHD culture, and she says that everyone has their own personal rhythm, and that societies have rhythms, too. She thinks ADHD can be seen as a desynchronization between your own rhythm and others. 

I like this take on time perception, because it doesn’t suppose that one way is correct and the other is disordered. But timeblind? It’s a pretty strong value judgment dressed up in sciencey words, and I started wondering what kind of studies it was actually coming from. 

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