Ultimately, from November 28th, to December 3th, I would end up spending a total 902 minutes of my life online, just a bit over 15 hours. That’s an average of about 3 hours per day. I would most frequently visit these following websites over the span of those 15 hours:
(I’d like to note again that my own website is uncharacteristically high on those rankings because I was working on this project — I’d like to convince myself that I am not a narcissist. )
I can’t help but to wonder how things would’ve been had I cut down on around half that time. 7.5 hours — that’s a whole good night’s worth of sleep, and one less all-nighter. But, as I mentioned before, it ain’t so simple.
That brings us back to the question I posited on Day III — it’s pretty damn clear that my compulsive Gmail (looks like it’s spelled with a lower case ‘m’ after all) and Wikipedia and Pitchfork browsing are a detriment to my immediate efficiency in regards to the completion of assignments (like this one) — but do my browsing habits make for long term gains?
I’ve done some more pondering, and I have to answer that question with a resounding yes. For example, my Pitchfork visits — I’m not just on there for the sake of being amused by existentialist soliloquys from failed musicians-turned-bloggers-turned-Pitchfork-writers. As a person looking to get into music video production, I need to discover aurally pleasing bands to reach out to. And the Wikipedia usage? It at least helps with providing great conversational fillers. When conversations head towards a dead end, I can pull a random bit of Wiki-knowledge out of my ass to prevent things from degenerating into stupid talk about weather or women. This sounds trivial, but maintaining good conversations are important for the maintenance of friendship, which in turn, ties into the concept of social capital and networking. Networking, ain’t that the name of the game? Oh, and the Gmail usage? Day V just demonstrated that I really couldn’t live without it.
One question tends to lead to another though, and there is no exception to be found here. These long term gains — are they overall worth the massive hemorrhaging of short-term efficiency? Indeed, my inability to concentrate has already bitten me in the ass several times already this quarter — I’ve bombed several huge midterms because I’ve lost focus at critical points of studying, which have severely dropped my grades. At this point, I’m still not wholly sure where my career is headed. The music video thing is but a nascent dream. Such is youth. If I do indeed end up trying for a different career, contingent on grades — I could’ve screwed myself over because of just several inopportune hours of browsing at the wrong time.
Contrarily, my inability to concentrate has also saved my ass. I recently took a final where the professor included some questions on the test pertaining to material he didn’t cover too extensively in class. How was I able to answer them? It just happened that the day before, studying for this test had led me on a whole Wikipedia tangent. I’d looked up and independently learned this information in the name of fun, without knowing that this “fun” would prove so beneficial.
And even if this information hadn’t appeared on the test, knowledge acquired is still knowledge acquired. Suppose a student who was doing an assignment had trouble focusing and decided to switch between his textbook about the history of Sub-Saharan Africa and Malcolm X’s autobiography. It wouldn’t receive the same connotation as “cyberslacking.” Perhaps, it would even be somewhat admired. Awww, look at how scholarly that kid is. But the action very closely resembles a student switching between an assignment and tangentially related Wikipedia articles, which, in all likelihood, would be considered “cyberslacking” by the professor.
In both cases, whether switching between assignment and book, or switching between assignment and Wikipedia, the kid is learning information for the hell of it, boosting his worldly-awareness. In that sense, the kid is doing work, even when he’s not technically making headway into his assignment. While cyberslacking, he’s doing work that may not yield immediate benefits in the form of a good grade, but perhaps something more important in regards to his maturation and development. After all, isn’t the point of higher education supposed to be about instilling scholarly, knowledge-seeking principles with the grade only being an incentive? The incentive just seems to have surpassed the ultimate goal and priority and importance, clouding the fact that work is still being done on Wikipedia. I’m going to loosely draw from Leland Yee, who wrote the article “The Labor of Fun” — all about how labor being done is still labor, whether or not a person is conscious of the fact that he is working. Learning is still learning when knowledge is being acquired, whether or not the student is nonchalantly waltzing through Wikipedia, or slogging through The Scarlet Letter in the name of academia.
And goddammit, some may argue that information being acquired on Wikipedia is not “knowledge of worth,” that information has to be vetted, assigned by qualified gatekeepers to be considered constructive, that information must flow from the pages of books whose publication apparently justify the value of their material. But who’s to say what’s worthwhile and what’s not? I consider many of the classes I’ve experienced at Northwestern to have been valuable experiences, but I do have my doubts about how much of the material I’ve learned will actually be practically applied profession, used to advance my socioeconomic status. I, along many other students, am here to learn for the sake of learning, to become more educated and cultured for reasons that could fill an entire other blog post. If anything, I’ve learned more practical information online when I’ve been dicking around. School did not teach me how to slice onions and cauliflowers. The Internet did.
Much of the histrionics over cyberslacking and the fall of mankind’s attention arguably rains down from an established corporate top, butthurt over the fact that their underlings are slacking. A lot of these articles decrying cyberslacking talk about how the practice is costing employers money, eating into their profits. They’re written from a very business-empathizing point of view. And for corporate, it’s all about the fucking bottom line. Paraquoting this article by this guy named Andrew Ross, businesses have been gleefully taking advantage of the current job climate, in which they can maximize profits by getting people to do miserably work for free, or for a far lower salary. Because of their priorities, raising revenue, getting good quarterly reports to investors, businesses have rarely celebrated and emphasized personal learning for individual good at the cost of “company time.” and These CEOs, CFOs presidents, board members hate cyberslacking because they feel that it’s eating into their juicy bonuses. These guys aren’t going to the media out of concern for the personal well-being of their employees. They can’t see beyond the fact that their employees are humans who need breaks and get bored without stimulation.
Tangent: I originally decided to do this project in blog format because I liked the irony of it. I figured, hey, wouldn’t be funny if I did a project about wasting time over something that people frequently associate with wasting time? Unfortunately, there are limitations to blogging, a lot of which have to do with the HTML/CSS theme of the blog. This post is just growing a little long, given that the theme has a slim body area (I wish I could change it, but unfortunately have little experience in the way of web design). So, I figured it’s time to draw this conclusion to a conclusion so that no one has to do too much scrolling.
I still can’t prove or disprove my hypothesis that my cyberslacking is overall, detrimental. There’s too much evidence that points either way. I suppose I set out with a hypothesis that was too vague and nonspecific.
Nonetheless, while this case study hasn’t yielded much in the way of firm conclusiveness, I’m tilting towards a no in terms of cyberslacking as a detrimental behavior. My practice would be looked down upon by corporate hiring, professors who want high class averages and wish that students spent every available minute on their material, among other folks. And perhaps, I’ll eventually grow to look down on myself if I end up worse off in life career-wise because of hurt grades.
Going off the small amount of life experience I’ve had so far, my cyberslacking has just yielded far too many benefits for me to write it off because of some corporate frustrations that the media has picked up. I have few regrets. Yeah, I wish I could take back some of that time I spent stalking people on Facebook, playing Robot Unicorn Attack, and refreshing my GMail , comes the fact that Wikipedia has taught me so much, opening the size of my awareness. For free. I’ve discovered gigabytes worth of awesome music, and a possible career avenue thanks to Pitchfork. The New York Times has pointed out what’s going on around my world, so I can be citizen in addition to a student.
I’m tempted to use the moniker “cyberdreaming,” instead of cyberslacking. Cyberslacking intrinsically has a negative connotation because of the second half of the word, and I’m not ready to associate the behavior with harm. Indeed, my web browsing habits have almost become an extension of my daydreaming. All this random knowledge is a boon to my spontaneous creativity, which may end up being worth more to me than an A in Physics.
“May.” That’s the key word. Just as many of those articles indicated within their speculation, that the nascent scientific research into the phenomenon still only yields ambiguous “maybe”‘s and “likely”‘s, I myself will have to wait until I can offer a much more definitive opinion. Admittedly, a lot of it will be contingent on how job prospects and career decisions turn out.
But one step at a time, right?
We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep cyberdreaming.