How much of the internet is a waste of time?

So the other day, one of my coworkers starts laughing about how there’s this video out there, two somewhat-scantily clad women with tinfoil-wrapped boxes on their heads, doing a choreographed “dance” to Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Then it hit me.

Someone — namely these two people — had to spend a considerable amount of time creating this. Thinking up the idea, practising it, filming it (with however many takes to get through the mistakes and undoubted laughter), and editing it.

Then it really hit me.

How much of the stuff out there is a complete waste of time?

Maybe this is just me. Lately, I feel as if I’ve got almost no time at all. I get up, I go to work, run myself ragged all day, sprint home to spend (maybe) 90 minutes with my child before bedtime (including feeding the Wee One while eating myself, and sometimes making dinner), then make up the last couple of hours trying to tie of other things that need doing. And back to bed. Rinse. Repeat.

No video. No fancy dance routines. No costumes. I’m lucky to listen to music in the spare minutes at work. Where the heck do people get time for this stuff?

Examples that come to mind:

By “useless”, I mean “adding no significant difference to the advancement of human knowledge”. Given, my definition. But the point’s the same: how much of the stuff out there on the ‘net is actually useful?

For the record, I count myself in the list of useless — most of this website (with a few notable exceptions, which seem to regularly show up on the popular posts lists) is useless. (It could even be argued that most of my job is useless by the same token, but I’m not going to go there right now, since that will get me very depressed.)

So, the question is asked, and I’m curious to know what others think: How much is useless?

4 Replies to “How much of the internet is a waste of time?”

  1. Basically, if it’s a want and not a need – it’s probably useless. Which probably accounts for 90%+ of all human activities. But we have to keep ourselves entertained somehow…

  2. I dunno ’bout that. I want to know more, so things like industry news, blogs, the Wikipedia, etc. are wholly useful. (Although I hate to go this route, a similar argument could be made for things like porn. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

    Breaking down the ‘net into “want” and “need” seems to miss the mark a bit.

    But you do make a good point, Ed — how much of it is entertainment? It’s neither a want or a need specifically, and it appeals to those with an idea to share. Functionally useless perhaps, but then the same could be argued for many arts in general. (And if that’s not opening a can of worms, I don’t know what is.)

  3. That’s what I meant by want vs. need – I was thinking in terms of social behaviour. Industry news, wikipedia, etc. can indeed be a positive force in as much as it is being used to fulfill a real need (for education purposes, business challenges etc.). However if the technology is being used to fulfill a want (ie. I have 20 minutes to spare and want to kill some time by Googling my own name to see what comes up) it may not be the most productive use of time. It may be entertaining but by no means does it build social, intellectual and / or financial value. I will go on a limb and make a gross generalization and that people waste significant time online, satisfying wants and not needs.

    But to your point, internet technology (Web or Web 2.0) can provide significant value. However, the amount of value we extract or erode is left to the individual’s discretion. I think this is much more of a human condition issue than a technology dilemma. If we didn’t have the Web… would we still not procrastinate? I’m sure we could all find many different ways to entertain ourselves. Many generations have done it before us – before any electronic equipment had ever been invented.

  4. Geez, Ed, you keep raising questions. Procrastination. (Something you and I know far too well.) I now wonder how much of the material on the ‘net is being created by university/college students trying to avoid their term papers? I’m there there’s statistics regarding when these things get uploaded. There’s gotta be a trend somewhere… 😉

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