It's been decades since Americans had this much time on their hands and — thanks to the Web — never have there been so many opportunities to burn it.
In November, Julia Otto was headed to her first day on a new job, car keys in hand, as an administrative assistant with a New Orleans construction company when her phone rang. Her position was eliminated before she even started.
Now, when she's not sending out resumes or doing household chores, the 43-year-old spends several hours a day playing games.
Her favorite is an adventure-puzzle game called "Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst," where she hunts for clues inside a spooky mansion to unlock a mystery. She spends about $7 a month playing games on the Big Fish Games site.
"They're an affordable way to help forget," says Ms. Otto. "It's not soap operas and chocolate."
As Americans — grappling with layoffs and grim economic news — try to find ways to fill their time, the Internet is helping people with job searches. But the medium is performing another important role: a social anesthesia that distracts people from the stress of unemployment.