The Internet has changed the way that we all live our lives. It's also invented a whole host of ways to suck all of your time away. Here are some of the best.
There was a time when the only way to pass a rainy afternoon was talking to the people in your house and playing a few hands of Canasta. Then came TV and board games and calling your friends on the phone. Now we all just head to the nearest computer and get sucked into the swirling abyss of the Internet. Everyone wastes their time in a different way, but these are all very common, easy to come by, and deadly to personal productivity.
The Wikipedia Hole
Ever go look up something on Wikipedia, something totally innocuous like Elizabeth Taylor, and it kicks off an awful journey that leaves you bleary-eyed and blubbering three hours later? It's so easy. From Elizabeth Taylor, you click on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, then on Mississippi, then on 2000 U.S. Census, then on imputation, then on bootstrapping (statistics), and then on sample size and you wonder why it has nothing to do with fashion, so you search "sample size" and still no fashion, so you search Issey Miyake and then you start clicking from there, over and over and over again until you're deep down in the middle of the hole, your mind steeped in trivia that you're going to forget as soon as the laptop clicks shut. Welcome to Wonderland, Alice. It's a hell of a place.
The YouTube Spree
The great thing about YouTube is that it has everything. The awful thing about YouTube is that it has everything. I mean, you go looking for Marisa Tomei's Oscar acceptance speech and somehow you end up clicking on everyone of those "related video" links on the right until you've worked your way to the collected works of the fake Chloe Sevigny. With YouTube you never intend to spend that much time, but you end up "one more clip"-ing yourself to death. They're only 3 minutes each, but those motherfuckers really add up. And you only realize that once you've watched 10 different divas sing "Ladies Who Lunch."
The Facebook Fugue
Oh, Facebook, we couldn't do anything without you. But I'm not talking about your normal visits during work hours when you're looking at status updates, checking your messages, and clicking on links from your friends. No, there is a different, darker Facebook that comes out late at night, when you start searching for all of your ex-girlfriends and clicking to see if any of them have changed their last names recently. Maybe you message them, maybe you don't, but then you start looking for that girl you had a crush on in college whose last name you can't remember, but then you think you can find her through mutual friends. And after that, you start an activity I like to call "scramping," where you look through your hottest friend's friends looking for attractive people to make you feel bad about yourself. This is the dark side of Facebook, and it will attack you and make you feel like a Saturday in a blanket on the couch with scattered tissues lying around your nearly lifeless body.
The Gilted Cage
Oh, look, there's a sale on Gilt Group. But there's always a sale on Gilt Group. Oh, what about Etsy? There's always something you need there, too. Don't forget that shower curtain with the pink bunnies and deer on it that you saw at the store and wanted to buy but didn't and now it's discontinued and you just have to have it. It has to be out there somewhere! Then there are the countless eBay auctions you're trying to win for toys that you threw out when you were 12 and you sure could use a new case for your iPhone. Shit, buy a new iPhone, because everything on the internet is for sale and everything for sale is on the internet. You just have to know where to find it. Cruising the web is like having a mall that never ends, where you just walk and walk and walk past Chess Kings and 5-7-9s for hours. It's like the world's largest rummage sale, but most of it is rubbish, but you know there is one great affordable gem tucked away under all the piles of crap and, as long as you remember the security code on the back of your credit card, you're going to find your way there. Oh, yes you are. Yes. You. Are.
The Date Machine
What is the "date machine?" Well, it's your computer. More specifically, it's all those sites that say they're going to bring you love, dates, or just a roll in the hay. Whether it's eHarmony, Match.com, OKCupid, Manhunt, Ashley Madison, Adult Friend Finder, or (shudder) Craigslist, the date machine is a major time waster. You have to come up with and perfectly hone your profile so it will give off flattering misconceptions about yourself. Then you have to start looking for mates and clicking on pictures and sending emails and responding and IMing. It's even worse if you're "looking for now" (as the homosexuals say) and are determined not to get off the machine until your getting off is totally determined. You think this is going to buy you freedom from lonely nights in front of the computer, but it only ensures that you'll spend even more time with glow of the screen warming your sad Anistonian face.
The Porn Addict
The adult industry figured out that most men spend about 12 minutes watching a porn clip. That's not a ton of time at all, especially because once you're "done" watching, your "interest" is totally gone. But it's finding that right video, checking all your favorite sites, and finding just the thing that's going to turn your crank on any given evening. Or, if you're too cheap to actually pay for porn, it's clicking through all those Tube sites (or worse, torrent sites) looking for that one that that is going to be long enough and hot enough to send you over the edge. Yeah, all of that takes a lot longer than 12 minutes—but it's probably the most fun you'll have being bored all day.
Living a Fantasy Life
While fantasy football might have little do with the real world, it certainly takes real time to attend to your team. Not only do you have to watch all the games (and in fantasy baseball, this takes even more time), but then you have to trade your players, pay attention to who is on the DL (the disabled list, not who's having sex with men on the sly), and how well everyone else in your league is doing. You have to analyze your stats and plan accordingly, spending large amounts of time on the painstaking details so that you can win a pot of cash and the admiration of your friends. You know if you spent half the time on fantasy football playing actually football you might lose a few pounds. Just a suggestion.
If you ever have a cough, stomach ache, nausea, fatigue, or any other vague symptom do not, for the love of Christ, try to get on WebMD and figure out what the hell is wrong with you. You are always going to decide that you have either cancer or AIDS. That's what it always boils down to. That rumbling in your gut or the strange sore spot on your elbow is either from cancer or AIDS. That's what your meager medical knowledge will make you think. Either that or some other exotic illness that you don't have because there is no way you have been exposed to Saharan parasites lately. There is probably nothing wrong with you, and if there is, WebMD is not a real doctor. He can't write you prescriptions or make you better. So put down the computer, pick up your phone, and call an ActualMD and go get a real examination. And if it is cancer, well, we're really sorry.
Getting the Message
There are message boards for everything like general matters (Reddit) and hackers (4chan!) to chess enthusiasts and anime purists and the seven guys who are still into minimal drum and bass and jungle produced between 1997 and 2001. And it's like everyone there just wants to shoot the shit and ask each other questions and have meaningless debates about superfluous things. But it's more fun than making small talk with strangers or just shooting the shit around the bar, because everyone gets you, you know? And next thing you know, you're a hundred threads down replying to some guy's response about your comment that you made about a funny cat picture that someone uploaded. Oh, the internet, it introduces you to so many new people just like you—well, at least their avatars and handles. You wouldn't want to spend five minutes with any of those folks in real life. Oh hell no!
Wow, you really got all the way down here to the end? What the hell are you doing reading this on the weekend. Go see your family or read a book or watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4D or something. There's a whole world out there!