Cultures are made and broken by how the vast majority of people spend their spare time. Do they crowd into stadiums for bloodsport events? Or do they debate politics in the streets, garden, pray, or make furniture? How people spend their time determines the tenor of the age. Consider the 1950s, the shift from evenings spent listening to the radio to television. We are in the midst of another shift, exploring the internet is the new knitting. 

The latest survey from Pew Research Center’s Internet Project divides people into two groups, creators and curators. Creators (54% of adult internet users) post their own photos and videos; These are the Instagrammers, the Snapchatters, the Vineites, the heirs of the original bloggers. 

And then there are the Curators (47% of adult internet users). These are the Tumblrers, the Pinteresters, those who take the work of others and repost it, sometimes directly, or more often, several layers removed. 

According to Pew a total of 62% of internet users have done at least one of these creating or curating activities up from 56% who did so in 2012 and many people ( 40% of internet users) are both creators and curators. The internet has always been a participatory place, that’s what led to the explosion of blogging—the idea of self-publishing, of commenting, of creating something and seeing it instantly appear. At first you needed coding or at least computer skills in order to do this—now you just need a phone. 

The difference of course between internet busywork and something like knitting is result. Knitting results in a sweater, a scarf, a gift perhaps, a sense of accomplishment, maybe. What do we seek when we become part of the participatory internet? Fame? Sometimes but not always, consider Snapchat in which all your effort simply evanesces. It’s creation in its most ephemeral sense, a sand mandala. It speaks perhaps to the difference between one generation and the next—the desire to leave a monument in a world which seemed too private in one, and the desire to disappear in a world where everything you do is public. It’s too soon to know what this means for the future but I believe we are shifting into a world where communication is both visible and temporary.