A generation of scholars or redditors?

By: Taylor Fulkerson

Over fall break, I spent my time trying to catch up on homework. The operative word here is “trying,” and I’d like to delve into what that means.

Whenever I sit down to a computer, my instinct is to log in to Facebook. Frankly, I don’t know why. It is a desert of information. Occasionally there is the oasis of a nice news analysis that someone has posted, but for the most part, it is pictures I don’t care about, links to content I saw on reddit two weeks ago and those advertisements that pollute my Facebook feed.

Gig’s up, Internet: what’s the point?

When I say that I “tried” to do my homework over fall break, I mean to say that I did homework for a while — let’s say a couple of hours — then stopped for food and a short Internet break that ended up lasting a couple of hours. And at that point if I had already wasted a couple of hours, why not waste a few more and call it a day?

From what I gather, both students and the Internet regard this as a widespread problem.

I am of firm conviction that our generation will be the first generation to lose careers in academia for an entirely arbitrary reason.

Did past generations lose career academics to arbitrary forms of entertainment? Sure, let’s say they did. Let’s say the ’60s lost some to rock ‘n’ roll, the ’70s lost some to sex and drugs and the ’80s lost some to hair bands. I’m sure some brilliant minds found an easy life of music to be preferable to the ivory tower. Despite this, nothing has ever been as widespread and rich in meaningless content as the Internet. Never in the history of humanity has any society produced this much pointless stuff.

Yes, our generation will be the one to miss out, and over the most valuable of all things — pictures of cats.

Of course, the Internet contains more than Facebook, BuzzFeed and Twitter. It is good for research, good for news, good as a bookstore, good for almost anything you can imagine.

It is no doubt a valuable tool for research. I can only imagine what research was like pre-Internet. One of my abiding curiosities is how a dissertation actually got done pre-wordprocessing, but I still haven’t gotten around to asking some of my professors how they did it. Sure, I know to go to the library. But I would not know how to navigate a non-electronic database (i.e., a card catalogue).

Somehow, though, research was still completed. And now students may be done with papers faster (though I cannot vouch for quality), only to move on to the wilds of the Internet for their “free time.” I don’t think the free time of our professors who were undergrads pre-word-processing is the same free time we have now. I know they didn’t peruse memes and pictures of cats for hours on end. Frankly, they probably did something that was at least mildly productive.

Now, though, it seems like our “free time” lures us away from actual academics, to the point that I waste time on the Internet instead of writing a paper, when I could just as well go to bed so that I can be awake enough to write it in the morning.

I do, however, propose a simple solution to all this. Let’s take the pictures off the Internet.

Simply put, once upon a time, back in the 1990s, the Internet was just text. It was too slow to support anything else, and consequently human beings didn’t waste their time making entirely mindless content. It sped up, and pictures and sound migrated into our favorite wasteland of electrons. And now I am here, just back from reddit because I decided this sentence was too taxing to write now.

So here is what I would like from someone who has experience in programming: I would like an attachment for my browser so that I no longer see pictures on the Internet. Goodbye to Facebook, a good portion of reddit and almost all ads. Maybe a simple solution is too much to ask for, but it’s better than ditching my computer altogether.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask, though, to recover our productivity. At this point, though, whether we do or we don’t seems of little import; we’ve already made more memes than any other generation to walk the earth.

Taylor Fulkerson is the Opinion & Editorials Editor at the Newswire. He is from Lanesville, Ind, and is majoring in philosophy and Spanish.