17 December 2020 Friday Freakout: Time is a social construct and New Years Eve isn’t real

By Jess Arvela Head of Sales & Marketing | Co-Founder

I remember thinking just before leaving for a shift at a hospitality role once, that their version of five o’clock was not necessarily my version of five o’clock, and that time was a completely imagined social construct. I didn’t want to go so badly, I started to rationalise that time was an illusion. 

Issac Newton and Albert Einstein shaped how we understand space, motion, and time. With Einstein’s theory of relativity, time is a part of the physical world. With Newton’s theory, time exists regardless of our perception of it. 

  • Does time exist independently of humans? If so, how is it measured? 
  • If it continues into the future indefinitely, when did it start?
  • While the passage of time is tracked by motion, aging, seasons, days, months, years if this motion was to cease, would time stop?
  • It’s not something physical, but neither is ‘length’, does that make it any less real?

Julian Barbour is a British physicist who wrote the book The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe and argues time is an illusion. Barbour explained: “We have no evidence of the past other than our memory of it, and no evidence of the future other than our belief in it”. According to Barbour, time is a reflection of change we subjectively experience, and as we order these events linearly in our minds, it has the semblance of a flow. Clocks exist and we record time as a measurement, time is a social construct. 

You can watch Julian explain what time is here.

Communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were first to track time by counting days in 18000-8000 BCE, read about the history of time here

Time is not experienced the same everywhere. We all seem to be awaiting the new year with trepidation and anticipation. As if it’s too good to be true, the end of 2020 and the start of something fresh and clean. There are many cultures that do not hold January 1st as the New Year.  Source: VOX “Not everyone celebrates the New Year on January 1. Here’s when other cultures do it.” 

  1. Chinese New Year February 8th
  2. Seollal (Korean New Year) February 8th
  3. Nyepi (Balinese New Year) March 9th
  4. Nowruz (Iranian New Year) March 20th
  5. Ugaadhi (Telegu and Kannada New Year) April 8th
  6. Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese New Year) April 14th
  7. Puthandu (Tamil New Year) April 14th
  8. Diwali (Marwari and Gujarati New Year Day) October 30th
  9. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) October 2th to October 4th
  10. Raʼs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah (Islamic New Year) October 3th
  11. Aboriginal Murador New Year October 30th

If you would like to stick with this January 1st date and are planning to celebrate, try and not put too much emphasis on it. A study titled The pursuit and assessment of happiness may be self-defeating between MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, published in the journal Psychology and Economics had three poignant findings when assessing the joy of those celebrating New Year’s Eve. One, that those who put the most effort into celebrating NYE were most likely to be disappointed (83%). Two, those who attended intimate gatherings were slightly less disappointed. Three, those who stayed home had the best time and were least disappointed.

So just remember, when you’re setting new year’s resolutions, 92% of them fail, time is an illusion, and your idea of a fresh start was dictated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Source: Reddit

In my opinion, 2018 is actually very different from 2017 just like every other year. It’s not because I think that time, a social construct, actually changes our world, but because it changes our perspective. Whenever we move into the new year, people are motivated to change. They are inspired to move on and do something that can have an impact on the world. Students try to become better in class, innovators are pressured by themselves to become much more creative, companies think of ways to further their campaign, and everyone is reminded that the earth has completely orbited the sun during the past 365 days and maybe, it’s time to try something different from the usual routine in which so much time has passed. The world doesn’t change just because an entire year has passed us. The world changes because the creatures who are capable of making a difference, humanity, become aware of time slipping through our fingers, and finally deciding to do something different.” – u/kmmck on Reddit

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