So, for my CITS class, we are reading Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus. As with most books required for school, I was bored enough I had to take a nap two pages in, then ignored the book for a few weeks. But finally, since my boyfriend was playing computer games and I was sufficiently bored on my own, I decided it was a good time to pick up the book again. Surprisingly, it actually was kind of interesting, and relatable. So anyway, here is my response to the first chapter:
Shirky discusses in his first chapter that we have a lot of free time, and most of that time is used — rather, wasted — by zoning out to t.v. However, he notes that a shift has started to occur, with the development of the social media we have today. With so many interactive sites, people are starting to spend less time watching t.v. and more time contributing online, through creating and sharing.
I have to admit, I am terrible when it comes to t.v. It is a complete trap for me. If I have a little bit of extra time and I’m tired, I will tell myself, “Oh, I’ll just watch half an hour of something to relax before I do whatever-productive-thing.” Or, the even sneakier excuse to turn on the t.v./netflix, “I’ll just turn it on for background noise.” Next thing I know, three movies or 6 episodes of How I Met Your Mother later, and my butt is still on that chair in front of the screen. And then I feel awful about all that time gone.
When I was still in grade school, living with my parents, I only sometimes watched t.v. with them, mainly because they liked boring shows that made me want to fall asleep. So instead, I would roam outside, play with the dogs, or create something. In fact, I was always drawing, painting, or making collages for my walls.
(Here’s an example)
But after moving out, starting to work and go to college, I was always wiped out. Instead of coming back to my apartment and creating something, I would just drop onto the couch/chair/whatever was there and let the t.v. think for me. It is a bad habit that I am still actively trying to break.
Shirky is right when he makes his reference to lolcats. They are some of the stupidest, low-effort creations on the internet. But, as he says, they are still better than doing absolutely nothing, while watching t.v. If all those hours watching t.v. were instead spent creating something, even something as dumb and simple as lolcats, imagine what would be out there in the world right now! So much more art, knowledge, and interaction!
The social media on the internet today is a time-sucker in itself. How many teens can you find, if you look around, that aren’t on their phone, updating their facebook status, texting pictures, or involved with the internet in some way? Hardly any. But, as Shirky would say, at least they are doing something. They are contributing something, which requires thinking, and creating–which is more than watching t.v. requires. I don’t go overboard with a lot of media sites and I don’t share things unless I think they will benefit the people who see them rather than waste their time. Even with that sort of moderation, there are still sites that suit me. One of my favorite is deviantart.com, an online art site where people can post their creations and receive feedback. Even if you don’t want feedback, it is still a good place to store your artwork and get ideas. I am also a fan of various creative writing sites, or art blogs, which I find through Google.
So basically, there are many ways to use the internet to create and share things, whether it’s art, ideas, or facts. I think it’s offering people a way to shift back from doing nothing with their time, to using it more constructively.