The Internet is distracting!!!
Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now that you have stated the obvious, what exactly am I going to do about it?
The problem, you see, is multi-faceted. The Internet is distracting, but also necessary. I need to check my email, edit my group paper/project in Google Docs, look up sources and articles etc. online, read the news and the weather, make the occasional appearance on Facebook so that my friends don't think I've forgotten them, etc. I spend at least an hour a day on checking my email and other necessary -- often school-related -- Internet tasks.
What I don't need to do is get into pointless arguments with bigots in the comments section of YouTube, spend forever on Pinterest, tweet 24/7, debate the merits and flaws of Communism and religion with people I only know via Facebook, defend against stereotypical/cruel/bigoted comments directed at social groups I may or may not belong to, or spend hours on Goodreads analyzing some random novel I liked. Also cat video marathons. You may laugh, but you know you're guilty of this too -- you watch JUST ONE VIDEO of a cat doing something adorable and it's like you need another hit of cuteness. At least I don't browse reddit or 4chan.
Usually I don't worry about my Internet use, but I had a sudden realization earlier today. It was occasioned by a Facebook discussion where a friend of a friend of an acquaintance commented: "Jesus's teachings: let's camp out in the desert and eat bugs and talk about how good we are rather than doing anything to actually combat violence." Seeing that, I chuckled and almost commented: "Lol that's John the Baptist actually" before I realized that a) they wouldn't get the joke, and b) they wouldn't care.
That actually really bothered me for a little while, until I realized that I shouldn't care what random people on the Internet think. I KNOW. Huge revelation, right? :P If this person wants to spread misinformation, nothing I can say will change that. Similarly, if YouTube-comment-bigots want to rant about how feminism and interracial marriage are destroying the world (examples of all the word-vomit out there on YouTube), then a comment from a random person won't exactly change their worldview. Hell, I don't even know them. Why do I bother?
This gets back to a personal problem, er I mean characteristic, of mine. I have a capricious tendency to play devil's advocate to almost anything,* because I believe that if you can't defend your views against the counterargument, then maybe you should rethink your views. Or at least, how you defend them. I can do this because I recognize that debate and discussion are not the place and time for emotion and personal investment. In other words: attack on my argument does not = attack on my person. Therefore, I might want to prove you wrong because I disagree, but it's not personal. Gay marriage destroys family values? Evidence please. Jesus was the ancient Middle East version of Thoreau? Ok, please explain. And kudos to you if you can convince me you're right.**
However, most of the Internet is not the place for reasonable discourse. This is why Goodreads is such a Laura-trap, and a place where I waste a huge amount of my time. On Goodreads, you are encouraged to have reasoned discussion and analysis of books. I, as you may have figured out, am a sucker for that kind of thing. It's also nice to find somewhere on the Internet where people are expressing their opinions without devolving into finger-pointing, name-calling, or grammatically nonsensical paragraphs.
So what can I do to cut down on my Internet time?
1. I shall avoid Goodreads discussion pages. I've already been doing that for a while; usually I just add, rate, and review books. And since I'm only reading one book for pleasure right now, I can safely cut all time on the site until I actually, you know, have time for it.
2. I shall not friend or talk to people on Facebook who I don't know in real life. There is one exception to this rule; I am going to ignore the rest.
3. I hereby give myself the power to not give a fuck! This is actually extremely difficult because I tend to care a LOT. However. The Internet is not the time and place to care, beyond signing petitions. (But if I meet racist bigots in real life, I make no promises.)
4. I shall henceforth ignore the comment section of YouTube/other sites. This will both save me a lot of spoilers and preserve my faith in humanity.
5. I shall not cultivate a new Internet addiction after Pinterest.
6. If I don't have anything interesting or revelatory to tweet, I shall not tweet.
7. Twitter time shall become an exercise in multitasking. By which I don't mean keeping Twitter and Facebook open at the same time; I mean working on a paper and tweeting on the side.
8. I shall begin a to-do list of things that cannot be accomplished on the Internet. And then do them. And then go on the Internet.
9. I shall subscribe by email only to the blogs/newsletters/groups whose posts I am 100% sure I will actually read. I also have some email subscriptions I almost never read; I shall unsubscribe to those.
10. I am not obligated to comment on every blogpost I read (although I try to do this for most of them, as a matter of courtesy if not always actual interest). Luckily, I'm helped in this by WordPress's extremely irritating login and Blogger's almost-as-irritating word verification. Dammit, WordPress, sometimes you just want to comment as "Anonymous" even if your email already belongs to a WordPress account. And Blogger, not even humans can read those word verifications. Thus, more bloggers are disabling them altogether. Congratulations -- in your attempt to block spam, you've actually achieved the opposite effect. It's easier to delete spam comments than read those squiggly words.
*I should just be a lawyer.
**Because that's kind of hard to do.