Recently, I spent some time chatting with a friend of mine back in Berkeley while she wrote a 20 page final paper. Like me, this girl is a big fan of procrastination. So she decided to start writing this paper a little more than 24 hours before it was due. She chronicled this marathon writing spree on her blog. I have to say, she held up remarkably well under the intense pressure. What could have been like a time-lapse car crash turned out to be a pretty interesting look at the modern college experience. I have to wonder though: did my chatting with her help by occasionally taking her mind off the assignment and allowing her to relax? Or was I a distraction? Either way, if she ends up doing poorly on this, I think we all know who is really to blame. That's right, The Internet.
Admittedly, now that I rely on it, I couldn't live without it. My love of instant gratification has been fed too often by this evil entity. Sports scores, news, pictures of friends, restaurant reviews, lolcats, etc etc etc. Once they are at your fingertips 24 hours a day, you get addicted. Psychologists are even considering adding Internet Addiction Disorder to the next edition of the holy bible of psychological disorders, the DSM. When I was a young kid, the Internet was just hitting the scene. I still remember the horrible noise of dialing up over a 56k connection. Downloading a handful of songs over Napster or Audiogalaxy was something you did overnight. But now kids are growing up with an Unlimited Distraction Complex the likes of which the world has never seen. And it's only going to get worse. With Blackberries, iPhones, and other assorted gadgets, people are increasingly connected wherever they go.
If it hadn't been for the Internet, my friend could have written her paper in peace, attention completely zeroed on her topic. Then again, how would she have done research? She was writing about the Dark Knight, and there certainly haven't been any books published on that film yet. See, like the HAL 9000, we depend on the Internet so much that, even when it hurts us, we can't turn it off. If we try, it will jettison our bodies into space or something. In a rare attempt to learn from past experiences, I started the 20 page paper I am currently writing a week before it was due. I was proud of myself at first. But the Internet combined with my body's unfamiliarity with a stress-free writing environment has foiled my plans at early completion of this godawful paper.
Because I started so early, I didn't feel the Fear: the stress that comes with knowing you have to write a page an hour or you will fail whatever class you are taking. It is that Fear that has kept my procrastination system workable over the years. In fact, I get the feeling that my subconscious is undermining my attempt to write this paper without the Fear. Every time I get into a good flow of writing, something draws me to read the Times or Politico or bash. With around 36 hours left, the Fear is only just starting to creep up my spine. Luckily, it is doing its job and my attention is improving by the hour. But, as you can see, I was drawn to write about this on my blog instead of writing about the Germanic influence on ancient Roman internal policy. See, the Fear works best with single-digit hours remaining.
I'm happy we have the Internet. It has entertained me and informed me better than anything else ever could. Because of the Internet, I can write term papers about ancient Roman history without ever touching a book. But it is still Evil, and it will probably bring about the downfall of the human race or something.
At least we'll be able to watch it happen on YouTube.