Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 5: The Interwebs!

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Hooray - this is where I get to talk about my procrastination skills. Nothing beats procrastinating by going online seven to eight hours a day, and spending only one or two of them actually looking up papers and journals for classes.

A typical online procrastination break from writing papers or studying might include all or any of the following:

  • Going through the entire xkcd archive - science geek humor is awesome.
  • Going through the entire piledhigheranddeeper archive - nothing beats humor about academia.
  • Searching through the perilous depths of fan fiction for good canon LOTR writing, hoping nervously that I won't encounter horrific ones of the calibre of the infamous My Immortal, so bad it even has an Encyclopedia Dramatica article on it.
  • Look for new jQuery scripts and marvel at the cool things they do; make mental note to learn jQuery.
  • Scan through recent lifehacker posts to see if there's any cool program I should install in my Linux.
  • Watch one or two talks on
  • Head over to and read a couple of articles.
  • Read the stupid stuff at brownfml and spottedatbrown and marvel at how insensitive some college goers can be. Then head over to harvardfml and be glad I don't go there.
  • Write this post instead of paper, which is due today.

Clearly, I would go insane if I had not the mindless depths of the Internet to retreat to from the trials of life.

And in this boundless world, aliases are a must. Quite simply, if I'm the Rogue that screws an entire questing group by failing to disable a trap in Dungeons and Dragons: Eberron, I don't want people to know I was responsible, even if they can't be sure my real name is an alias or not.

Still, there are instances where people I meet online do actually know who I am. I spent a great deal of secondary school trading art cards via snail mail with people overseas, whom I met online - and I still have some of the most cherished cards with me. And last year, after the Class of '13 had received acceptance letters, we formed Facebook groups and started talking to one another online, conducted mix CD swaps, set up real life meetings. Many of my current friends in college I met through Facebook, although the reverse is also true - many of the people I first met on Facebook I no longer see or have the urge to talk to. Which proves that what you see isn't always what you get: one can appear appealing and friendly online, but be the complete opposite in real life.

One note: a Facebook account is almost essential in university. You find out about events through seeing them on your friends' pages; you gather support for the event you're organizing through social media.

For example, you might discover that a group of people are organizing a reenactment of an ancient Egyptian-Hittite battle and are calling for volunteers to take part. (You then use this as leverage to skip a class by begging professor to let you participate and explaining how ancient warfare is somehow connected to nanotechnology - I don't know how, but it is). An afternoon of running around with weapons ensues.

With all due respect, it was more of an opportunity for people to go crazy on an afternoon. Too bad the video doesn't show the Egyptians' awesome steam-bended wooden chariot. It shows the aftermath of the Hittites' charge at the Egyptians, and their clash, with Nubian mercenaries joining in the fray.

But therein lies the peril of being connected: you don't want to be disconnected.

See, this is how a typical all-nighter might go for me:

Midnight: Announce to roommate that I am about to pull an all-nighter, receive no sympathy since roomie is doing the same.
12.10am: Head downstairs to the lounge, primed and ready to tackle the paper.
12:15am: Decide to check email and Facebook updates before I begin. Notice roomie is online. Remark to her how we're both not getting any work done, are we?
12:20am: Notice that friend back in Malaysia is online. Initiate chat.
12:40am: Finish complaining about paper I have to write.
1:00am: Friend leaves to get lunch. No matter - other friend in the States is online. Initiate chat.
1:01am: Mutually complain with friend about papers we have to write.
1:15am: Plan out summer with friend.
1:30am: Check with roomie via FB chat how her paper is progressing. Make guess that she is watching more episodes of Grey's. Score.
1:40am: Malaysian friend returns from lunch. Resume telling her about funny thing professor did in class.
2:30am: Friend admonishes me for not getting started on paper. Tell her I am multitasking. And indeed I am - I am going through xkcd comics, looking up shirts on Threadless, and reading random news articles.
3:00am: Write a paragraph of paper. Announce this triumph to friend.
3:50am: Friend leaves. Promise self that I will do one last check of Facebook, then lockdown and do paper.
4:15am: Switch off Internet and focus on paper.
4:45am: Get bored and pop online to see if anyone else is all-nighting.
5:05am: Get annoyed at the birds chirping outside and the lightening sky, since they remind me of the inadequate couple of paragraphs I have typed so far.
5:06am: Google 'annoying birds'.
5:15am: Go back and edit existing paragraphs for better flow and diction.
5:45am: Actually start writing a new paragraph.
6:00am: Custodian pops head into lounge and wonders what I am doing up at this hour.
6:05am: Too tired to think. Decide to go back and nap. Set alarm for 7.30am, which is when dining halls open, so I can get breakfast and resume typing. Naturally, I ignore all five alarms and awake hours later. Panic, since paper is due at 12. But let me just check my email first...

So nope, the online world has made me more connected with my friends, especially that I'm thousands of miles away from them. It has, though, made me less connected with my work.

One parting note: sarcasm doesn't translate well over the Internet.

Charis Loke is a rising sophomore at Brown, concentrating in Biochemistry. Her interests include art and illustration, Tolkien, and procrastination.

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