Thursday Three #41

  1. Now you can’t even go to a gas station without being bombarded by media. An Exxon near my apartment has gas pumps with a little TV inside them that shows (of course) the news (but fortunately not CNN). The only good thing about it is that it occasionally displays the word of the day (on Tuesday, that was “desiccated”).
  2. Has anyone used Medium? It’s a fairly new blogging tool that is geared toward journalists. I don’t think it has as many features as WordPress, but it does seem to be more user friendly and basic, like a bigger and cleaner version of Twitter.
  3. I now know where the rainbow ends… and it is unfortunately at the DMV!

Useless College Classes

This post is about an older article (from 2014), which I just now read and find fascinating. The author is a college professor who is teaching a course called “Wasting Time on the Internet.” Sounds like a made-up, clickbait article, but it’s unfortunately not. It’s legit, and it seems to be based on the premise that the Internet is like a surrealist painting and can be studied as such. So in the three-hour course, the students are supposed to aimlessly surf the Internet, but they will also “explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting, through critical texts by thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly, Erving Goffman, Raymond Williams, and John Cage.” (I don’t know who any of those people are.)

Eh, I don’t know if I would take the course, although with that description, it sounds interesting and passably useful. Maybe it’s supposed to make students rethink the amount of time they spend online, or at least rethink what they look at online. The author of the article believes his class will encourage students to create something new from their aimless Internet wanderings. Their browsing history can become art, probably in the same way that a photo of someone’s fecal matter can also be considered “art” because anything goes.

There is a school of thought that says it is necessary to be bored or do things aimlessly, so that the brain can relax and daydream. After all, the daydreaming state is what brought about a lot of classic literature, art, and music. It seems to me like it’s all about how much time is spent wandering about aimlessly in your own mind. It’s one thing to do it in a three-hour class, but those three hours are certainly not the only time that students will be spending in their pointless Internet jaunts. The old principle still applies: Everything in moderation, including mindless “creative” time.

Anxiety and the Internet

There are countless studies on how the Internet and social media provoke undue anxiety. Yes, the Internet can be used as a marvelous force for good in the world, but in my mind, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Because I’m a “Millennial,” it is hard for me to remember a time when the Internet was not a prevailing force in my life. I started to go online more often when I was about 16 or 17, back when Xanga was all the rage. Reading my peers’ rants and raves caused me to feel as though I had more of a connection with them, and I could more easily convey my thoughts in writing than in speech, so the Internet seemed like it would be a useful tool.

Sometimes I wish the Internet hadn’t made things so “easy,” but at the same time, if it wasn’t for the Internet, I often wonder if things would have been harder for me. This kind of speculation is a waste of time and can also lead to anxiety, so I tend not to think about it too often. I do find that it helps when I see articles such as this one, that acknowledge the need to unplug and regain contact with the outside world.

What can be done to get out of the anxiety-inducing online world?

  • Post less often. Figure out how often you post blogs or comments or podcasts and limit it.
  • Check email less often. It’s OK to let your inbox pile up occasionally. Most of it usually gets deleted unread anyway.
  • An addendum to the previous bullet: go through your emails and see which ones you can unsubscribe to. Trust me; there will be a lot.
  • Don’t turn on your computer (or don’t launch your Internet browser). Once you get it started, it’s harder to turn it off because of the next shiny thing that grabs your attention. So don’t even get that ball rolling.
  • Avoid reading news articles or looking at the news. It’s hard when it seems like every place you enter has ten TVs all blasting CNN. Bring a book or look out a window.
  • Put your phone on silent and put it in a drawer. If you don’t see it or hear it making noise, you might forget that it exists.
  • Talk to real-life people. This is the single most effective way to get out of the online world and out of your own head.

Honestly, the most important thing would probably be to remember that not everything you read or see online is true. Sometimes just knowing is enough to take the edge off anxiety.