Vriezen: Facebook isn’t the only Internet distraction

Social Media — Distractions

Graphic: Katie Redfern/Iowa State Daily

Social Media — Distractions

Claire Vriezen

With a keyboard at your fingertips, you are granted access to a world of knowledge through the Internet. From news and information to message boards and recipes, almost anything you desire can be found with a few keystrokes and clicks. The transition of previously physical media (such as books and newspapers) to electronic form means the Internet has become a valuable source of instant information.

What happens, though, when you try too hard to take it all in?

Whenever I sit down at my computer nowadays, I have a routine of checking my email, a few favorite webcomics, a handful of blogs that I follow and a news site or two. While many people speak of Facebook’s evils when Internet distraction is mentioned, sometimes simply taking in information about the world and topics that I’m interested in can consume time just as quickly.

I’ve recently added Reddit to my list of frequented sites, and while I will spend some time reading a few Rage Comics and the like, I prefer to follow links to news stories or other text posts that look intriguing. Again, while most of the information I take in pertains to political or social issues that I care about, simply accessing and reading the information takes time.

I, for one, dislike the idea of being uninformed about world events. As I started to mature in both intellect and personality, I figured that I should probably pay some attention to the news. That sense of obligation, in combination with my general interest in science, politics and skeptical inquiry, impels me to spend an hour a day just updating myself.

For some reason, we seem to have developed the desire to be perpetually in the know. There are plenty of studies on technology’s relationship with instant gratification. Exploring that would be worth a whole other article. With information on any topic just a Google search away, I can have virtually any question answered and any thought expanded upon.

It’s a hard balance to find. How do you keep up with current affairs without sacrificing valuable time? Of course it depends on the person, but for some, Facebook isn’t the devil in disguise. It’s simply a means of information-gathering.

As the adage goes, “all things in moderation.” One would think this would go without saying, but too often it is forgotten. The thing to keep in mind is that it is unlikely that major news headlines will change much in a day or two. Blog posts can be read at a later date. All that information isn’t going anywhere.

So if you find yourself constantly checking the news online, hoping for some exciting, controversial news story to make its way to the media, or perhaps waiting for the latest on a political blog, it’s OK. Reading up on the news half a day or so after it’s published still keeps you current. Your desire for instant gratification shouldn’t drive you to check all your normal Internet haunts every few hours.

We all know it’s easy to get distracted on the Internet by social sites. It’s only fair to realize that one can get distracted simply by refreshing one’s knowledge of the world.