Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Wasting Time (Or: In Defense of the Internet)
A lot of people lately are busy breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back for "detoxing from social media."
Delete your Facebook account! Pare your twitter feed down to like, three people! Turn off your telephone for six hours a day!
Yeah, well, I've got news for you: I LIVED FOR 28 YEARS WITHOUT THE INTERNET, 32 YEARS WITHOUT A MOBILE PHONE, AND 38 YEARS WITHOUT FACEBOOK!
And did that make me some kind of fucking awesome productive god?
Me and EVERY OTHER FUCKING HUMAN BEING ON THE PLANET?
No, not particularly.
You can waste your time any number of ways; the internet and websites are just extremely effective tools for wasting time.
A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME
I remember back in the day, back when I was in college on a strict 90's KILL YOUR TV phase, when I was bored, I'd walk down to the bookshop or the library and just kind of mill around looking at random books and magazines for a few hours, reading an article here and a paragraph there.
What was that, if not primitive websurfing?
I didn't have a TV. But I saw all kinds of fucking stupid movies that I wouldn't bother with these days.
And, let's see, I wrote letters -- much in the same spirit of the blog entries I make now -- and sent them to one or two people, who also wrote me letters. Occasionally we included cartoons and pictures.
Primitive blogging and emailing and social networking. And I'd say that managed to take up even MORE time than I spend blogging, to less effect.
Were those somehow purer and more genuine forms of communication? Well, hell. Probably not.
I irritated everyone by refusing to answer my phone except during a period in the evening -- of course, that was a way to get away from telemarketers and automated messages as well of course as a way to be fucking cool.
As going on some kind of idiotic "media diet" of avoiding the news and whatever pop culture shit -- you'll be happily meditating in your room with no phone when the volcano eruption destroys the whole city -- that has already been evacuated -- except for you, keeping it real with your media diet and lack of telephone.
HATING ON THE HATERS
As for all the "flame war" arguing and "hating" that goes on -- yeah, that can consume a lot of your time. Tons of it.
But people do that in real life too, you know. Back in the day, how much time did I waste having dumb half-baked political arguments with people in real life? How many hours did I spent listening to people at college parties bitch in an ill-informed way about Central American Reagan era nonsense?
You'll be reading about my office mate Heinrich in the next memoir -- he was one of those guys who used to think he knew everything and was happy to argue with the other guys in the office about politics, race, religion, whatever.
In this case the internet was usually used to STOP his mouthing off. We could quickly look up facts and shut him down.
The internet is a tool, like a chainsaw -- you can use it to cut your legs off or you can build a house with it. Yes, if some activity you're doing makes you unhappy, than by all means stop it. But if like me you find the internet an incredibly useful tool for keeping in touch with people and accessing all sorts of useful and interesting and entertaining media and information, then don't be ashamed of that, either.
WASTING TIME MORE EFFICIENTLY
I can remember back in the 90s getting bored once when I was hungover; didn't feel like writing or reading or going out. What did I do?
I would occasionally lay on the bed and bounce a tennis ball repeatedly off the wall.
A bit better in terms of physical activity than playing ANGRY BIRDS I guess, but equally pointless.
Once, I remember, I took the front cover off the box fan I had, turned it on high, and spent about thirty minutes throwing pencils at the front of it and watching them bounce across the room.
I put it to you -- if you're not wasting time on the internet, you'll probably just waste it some other way.
Of course, you might be better served by going out and say, taking a walk or something, rather than endlessly checking your Twitter feed or whatever, but now you can do like I do and listen to podcasts or online lectures while you walk.
Now, excuse me I'm going to get back to my free course on graphic design that I'm doing on Alison, then talk to some friends in Russia on Skype, and then watch an exploitation movie from the 70s on Youtube. G'night.