It’s not uncommon to hear the Internet touted as the most revolutionary technology since the printing press, and who could argue with that sentiment?
After all, modern computers deliver a world of knowledge to our fingertips. You can research an entire paper without ever setting foot in a library. You can stay informed about the latest world news without a cable subscription. Hell, you can do all of this and much more from the comfort of your own bathroom.
And yet every time I go online, it’s not long before I’m lured away from whatever I’m looking for by the siren call of the the Internet’s more frenetic side. You know the sites. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest — the usual suspects. They rear their heads anytime you’re trying to actually get things done.
The next thing you know, you’re posting a hilarious Tumblr you just found to your best friend’s Facebook wall.
Wait, does that clock say 3 a.m.? What happened?
The Internet happened, that’s what. Twitter can chew through your free time with frightening efficiency. And who can blame you for wanting to see just one more video of kittens chasing a laser pointer?
With the ready access to instant gratification such sites afford, they are productivity piranhas. And they appear to be here to stay.
I know I’m not the only one with this problem. We’ve all been a part of that awkward dinner where everyone’s looking at their phone just a little too intently, or rolled our eyes as someone snaps yet another picture of their plate for Instagram. It’s grating when everyone around you is doing it, but we’re all guilty of letting our cyber personas weasel their way into real life.
Look, this isn’t an attack on social media or a curmudgeonly rant about how all this newfangled technology is going to turn us into zombies.
These websites are useful tools in their own right, even if only as distractions from the more mundane aspects of our lives. They can be perfect diversions from dreary morning bus rides or the checkout line at the grocery store. I can’t count how many times I’ve been cooped up in a waiting room watching some poor sap flip through dusty Reader’s Digests and thanked my lucky stars for my smart phone.
But, as with any potential vice, the burden falls on consumers to set their own limits. If an important paper is due next week and you want to get a head start on it, try turning your wi-fi off while you hit the books.
Leave your phone in your pocket when you’re out for dinner and actually enjoy the food in front of you.
Use your laptop for notes when you’re in class. Isn’t that what you keep telling people you brought it for, anyway?
Leave the distractions for the next time you’re waiting on the microwave. Eventually that insidious urge to check Facebook for the 15th time today will fade and you’ll find yourself with a clearer mind for it.
After all, those adorable kittens, delicious meals and clever jokes all existed in the real world before they were zapped onto your iPhone. Fry up something for lunch; go to the animal shelter; have a beer with friends and laugh at their witty remarks firsthand.
Spectating is fun, sure, but why settle for watching when you can get in on the action?
Illustration: Donovan Thorimbert