We've become a nation of nerds.

The average American now spends more time using media devices -- TV, radio, iPods, cell phones, computers -- than any other waking activity, according to a new study.

Coast to coast, we're "plugged in" to music and news and text messages and Internet shopping. We still read newspapers and books and magazines, but way too much of our time is devoted to television and our beloved electronic gizmos.

"As a society, we are consumers of media," said researcher Robert Papper of Ball State University's Center for Media Design. "The average person spends about nine hours a day using some type of media."

Papper and his cohorts spent several months shadowing 400 people in Indianapolis and Muncie, IN, where Ball State is located. The researchers recorded information every 15 seconds on what media the subjects were using. All told, they studied 5,000 hours of media use.

Here are some of their findings:

--About 30 percent of the observed waking day was spent with media as the sole activity, and 39 percent was spent with media while involved in some other activity. Only 20.8 percent of the day was spent solely on something called "work."

--In any given hour, no less than 30 percent of those studied were "engaged in some way with television, and in some hours of the day that figure rose to 70 percent."

--About 30 percent of all media time is spent using more than one medium at a time.

--Women do more media multi-tasking than men. Papper told the New York Post that men seek media contact of "short duration and instant gratification" while women are interested in "longer, more thoughtful" interaction. So, it's just like sex. Proof once again that "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Calgon."

--The average American spends four hours a day watching television and three hours a day using a computer.

As a casual observer, I would now like to say: Great Googly-moogly! Nine hours a day? We spend more time "consuming media" than we do sleeping? Are you kidding me?

Four hours a day of TV, and there's still nothing good on? Three hours a day on a computer? Does that count all the time spent waiting on reboots?

Imagine how much crap we're stuffing into our brains every day. No wonder we can't remember where we left our car keys. We're too busy processing the latest update on Britney Spears. And listening to an MP3 song we don't remember downloading. And turning away telemarketers. And waiting for the computer to finish displaying its annoying pop-up ads.

It's All Input All the Time here in America. If we're not on the phone, watching TV and surfing the 'Net, all at once, then we might miss something.

We stay indoors, filtering the wider world through a haze of electronics. When we do leave the house, we block out extraneous sounds by blasting music into our heads via "ear buds." We sort through our e-mail in coffee shops. We check our voice-mail in movie theaters. Apparently, some of us cannot drive without talking on cell phones.

Media consumption is the true "Revenge of the Nerds." The nerds didn't recruit us into their pocket-protector cult. They just designed neato gadgets, and we all willingly joined their ranks.

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