How to stop wasting hours on the Internet?

The Internet is definitely a double-edged sword.

At best it’s a vast collection of human knowledge, accessible from our pockets, a steady stream of information readily available at all times. Want to know why the sky is blue? Why water’s wet? Why Brangelina went back to being Brad and Angelina? The Internet knows.

But at it’s worst the Internet has proven to be divisive and hateful. Want to spread your insane racist beliefs? Set up your own webpage! Want to push some crazy political agenda? Get on Twitter and tweet garbage until you find enough like-minded people to make your own smouldering pile of rubbish.

And in between these two extremes is what happens to most people on the Internet (and what happens to me much too often): the mass wasting of time.

Searching for interesting developments in science or arts I often end up taking the click bait.

“10 Disastrous Superhero Castings That Almost Happened”, “The Reason We Barely See Vince Vaughn Anymore”, “8 Actor Replacements Everyone Fails To Notice”.

Why do I click these stupid articles? Because, honestly, who even cares? But also, many of these click bait questions I already know the answer too.

“Why Hollywood Left Dane Cook Behind” – cause Dane Cook wasn’t funny even back when people thought he was funny.

“How The Suicide Squad Should Really Look” – Not like it did.

“The Many Untold Truths Of The Pawn Stars” … Honestly, who cares. And yet, I keep on clicking on this nonsense.

But it’s not just me.

A Forbes magazine article reported that 69% of people waste some time at work – actually, it’s astounding it’s not more. And I suspect if that number was collected by asking workers how much time they waste, then we can safely assume it’s actually higher. But what are people wasting their time on?

The Internet.

It seems that 64% of employees visit non-work related websites every day. Which again, I’d estimate that all employees visit at least one non-work related website at some point in the day but who am I to argue with statistics.

The biggest time-waster at work due to the Internet? E-mail.

Over 192 billion e-mails are sent every day. And only 14% of them are seen as crucial to work. This means that the average employee spends four hours dealing with their e-mails. Four hours! That’s half the working day!

But what about away from work? Well, there are statistics for everything. And here’s another stat to throw at you. We now spend more than eight hours a day consuming media. That’s reading magazines, watching TV, and of course the biggest new source of media is the Internet. Eight hours! We’re media gluttons.

That means roughly a third of our day is potentially spent staring at our phones. And yes, reading an article about why Dane Cook is not in demand anymore counts as media.

And this is just media. That doesn’t include our social media addiction, which definitely helps the time wasting nature of the Internet. The average person has five social media accounts and spends about one and a half hours every day checking them. Which, again, sounds pretty restrained. I don’t consider myself a social media maniac but would estimate I spend at least a couple hours reading through my feeds.

So how do we reclaim our time and stop wasting it on frivolity on the internet? And no the answer isn’t to care less about Dane Cook (I’m not sure that’s possible anyway).

Experts say: Allocate time to waste. That is, we all need our down time, and if reading ridiculousness on the Internet is how we want to do it, then that’s fine. But allocate a time for it. While you’re working, stay on task. Fight the urge to check social media or fall prey to the click bait on the side and bottom of your screen. Give yourself an amount of time to work, and an amount of time to be seduced by the Internet, and at least the Internet’s conquest over you won’t eat into your productive time. At the very least.

For me, it’s definitely about not falling prey to the moderately alluring question of what is Brandon Fraser doing now? It’s about recognising it has less to do with Brandon Fraser and more about me looking for any little thing to distract me from what I’m doing. Which is clear because I did read that Dane Cook article. Twice. And I didn’t care the whole time.


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