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Top ten online time wasters

Observer Scene | Monday, November 22, 2004

People have praised the Internet as one of the greatest tools ever to be invented. Its uses never end – communication, learning, e-mailing professors your papers instead of going to their offices, etc.

But even ignoring the fact that the Internet may be dominated by indecent Web sites, no one can deny that it has provided endless ways to avoid your work. In honor of the approach of finals, here are some of the biggest time wasters provided by the Internet.

1. AIM

AOL Instant Messenger ranks among the biggest computer time-wasters available today, and it has quickly become an integral part of the lives of many college students. You assign yourself a screenname, and you can “chat” with other people by typing using dialogue boxes. You get a buddy list with all of your friends’ screennames, and you can spend hours checking away messages that people put up when they aren’t around their computer. If you ask most college students, Instant Messenger is more than just a time waster – it’s an integral part of how they communicate with other people.

2. The facebook

Talk to anyone about the facebook, and you’ll probably hear them complain about how much time they waste on it. The facebook is a kind of online yearbook, but you get to choose your own photo and create your own profile. If you happen to be surfing the facebook and see someone that you know, you can invite them to be your friend, and they can confirm or reject you. The facebook is a spreading presence at universities across the nation, so it’s quite possible for you to spend hours looking for people from your high school, find that boy or girl you like in calculus class or browse through the wide variety of clubs, such as the Awkward White Guy Club or the Committee to Relocate Notre Dame to the Bahamas.

3. ESPN.com

Between the Facebook and AIM, there’s plenty of time wasting to go around. But just in case, ESPN.com is easily a top choice and a home away from home for procrastinators – at least those that happen to be sports fans. Whether you want the latest predictions and/or rants from Dickie V. (“You gotta love the Dukies and their diaper dandies this year, baby!”) or just want to see video and hear commentary on the fallout between the city of Detroit against the Pacers, ESPN.com is the place to go. On top of all that, it’s easily one of the best sites on the net for live scores, stats galore, columns from sports experts, game wraps and fantasy leagues that’ll keep you occupied until the wee hours of the morning – or at least until 15 minutes before that 8 a.m. biology exam.

4. Online shopping

The irresistibility of online shopping can be summed up in two words – convenience and selection. Even people who are too lazy to get up out of their chairs can max out their credit cards at the Gap, Best Buy and virtually any other store that more motivated shoppers actually walk around in to go shopping. Besides the allure of acquiring a new wardrobe or stereo system while sitting around in your underwear, there’s the fact that you can shop online at stores which might not exist in South Bend except on the World Wide Web.

5. Lyrics

When you need the perfect song for your profile or away message, your other time-wasting Internet pastime, you can now Google those mumbled songs that you hear on the radio. Plus, you can now use search engines to learn lyrics and impress people with your ability to sing all the words to “Callin’ Baton Rouge.” Whatever your reason for needing to know all the lyrics to any song, you can spend your time on lyricsdepot.com instead of writing your papers.

6. Online Games

Back in elementary and middle school, it was easy to waste hours playing Tetris, solitaire or Snood on the computer. Sadly, nowadays, nothing has changed. At least back then you could take it off your computer. Now, you can look up almost any game online instantaneously, and before you know it another hour of your life is gone.

Particularly addicting games can easily be found at www.zone.msn.com, the appropriately named www.addictinggames.com and even our own www.ndtoday.com. Use with caution, because the closer finals come, the more tempting they are.

7. The Onion

The Onion is to newspapers what “The Daily Show” is to TV news. The Onion mocks everything from politics to the banal details of everyday life, and does so by making everything, no matter how silly, read like a real news articles. With news headlines like, “Teen Handed Awesome Responsibility of Closing Subway Alone” or editorials titled, “What Happens at Yucca Mountain Stays at Yucca Mountain,” you can waste a lot of time reading entertaining, albeit fake, news. The Onion also offers collections of its news articles in book form for those who wish to spend even more time reading slightly made-up news.

8. homestarrunner.com

If you want to figure out how big a time waster www.homestarrunner.com has become, try making your buddy icon a picture of Trogdor and see how many people recognize him. Then compare with how many people recognize a picture of Kofi Annan. The results may be frightening. Homestar Runner and his cartoon buddies can become a true addiction; at first, they may only be mildly funny, but before long, you may be spending the better part of an afternoon sifting through Strong Bad e-mails, cartoon shorts, character videos and of course Teen Girl Squad. You might even feel like the characters have become your friends. But remember, real friends will help you pass your classes.

9. Blogs

The blog scene has been growing continuously over the past several years, and has recently exploded. Admittedly, some of these blogs are useful. Political blogs, for example, can be a great way to find well-constructed arguments on public policy or international relations, which will never make it to newspapers. But keeping a livejournal or a deadjournal is not only an efficient way to waste not only your own time – you can waste the time of many of your friends simultaneously. Keeping in touch with your friends, you say? How many times have you read multiple entries out of a journal of someone you barely know or never met? This is clearly a huge time waster.

10. Maddox

A lot of people only know www.maddox.xmission.com from the famous page “I am better than your kids,” featuring critical commentary on children’s artwork. People who take the time to explore the rest of the site will discover that Maddox is rude to every other class of people. The kids’ pictures are funny, but an article about why Christopher Reeve is selfish and arrogant? Criticizing “The Lord of the Rings” for not having lesbians? How inappropriate can you be?

Maddox is proof that people love to have people to hate. The best way to stop him from writing is not, of course, to write hate e-mails and give him fodder for more postings, but people continue to write and he continues to make admittedly humorous, but invariably rude, responses. A sick cycle, you say? Don’t assume you’re immune, and be careful about visiting Maddox.