5 Easy Ways to Waste Time on the Internet

Blair Hanley Frank

Credit: Loos-Diallo

Well, it’s that time of the semester again. Finals are right around the corner. Massive papers and tests clogging up your brain? Get some digital palette cleansers, in the form of some of the greatest time wasters the Internet has to offer. How easy is it to waste your time on the Internet? Very easy. For those of you who are mostly uninitiated, or just want to find new ways to fool around, here are some big categories to look for.

1. Web Video. I’m going to assume that my readership is, for the most part, acquainted with the wonders of YouTube. With this supremely time-sucking Web site, you can find everything from cats goofing off to things exploding in microwaves to semi-scholarly discussions of the hand removals in “Star Wars.” But there are also some unsung heroes in the world of video on the Web. Netflix offers a free trial for two weeks that provides users with unlimited streaming, as well as DVDs delivered in the mail. Hulu has hours of content available for free (commercial breaks included). But, in case you want to take a break from your “Buffy” marathon, you can turn to:

2. Flash Games. Again, most long-time denizens of the Internet ought to be familiar with such operations as AddictingGames and Armor Games. But, there are a few newcomers to the Internet gaming scene that are worth a look. The first is Kongregate, a gaming portal akin to many others, but in addition to offering a wide range of different games all in one place, a select group also come with “achievements,” which are point rewards for completing in-game objectives. Of course, points mean nothing, but it provides the player with a sense of accomplishment. There’s also OMGPop, which is built entirely around social gaming. Their (rather small) catalog of games are all designed to be played with multiple people, for multiplayer enjoyment. Of course, it’s entirely possible that moving pictures aren’t your thing. In that case, look no further than:

3. Web Comics. There are a ton of talented artists and writers out there who have found a way to show their stories off to the world via web comics, which are exactly what they sound like: comics, either in a shorter strip form, or a longer more graphic novel-esque approach, distributed via a Web site. Much like the dead-tree comic and graphic novel market these days, there are web comics for everyone. There’s the nerdy standby “XKCD,” which describes itself as “a  web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language,” as well as the gamer-centric “Penny Arcade.” Other paragons of the genre include “Dr. McNinja,” about the exploits of a doctor, who’s also a ninja, and “Questionable Content,” which follows a group of indie/hipster types in their day-to-day exploits. Of course, if you prefer a more textual approach, you should try reading some:

4. Blogs. Yep, the blog is almost as old as the Internet itself, and the blogosphere, like the universe, is constantly expanding. When it comes to finding the blog for you, it’s really a matter of taste. There are blogs for every single topic in the universe, be it robots or debates over cat breeding. Finding something that suits your interest is really a matter of how many Google searches you want to do, but to get on the fast track, there are a few places to check. First, the great crowd-sourced story aggregators Digg and Reddit are good places to start. These sites are powered by user submissions of stories that people think are funny, poignant, interesting or stupid. Each story is tracked by popularity, and the most popular ones make it to the front page. Something on either site’s home page that piques your interest is a good place to start your journey into the blogosphere. But suppose you want a magic button that will find things you like without you having to even lift a finger. Such a thing exists . . . It’s called:

5. StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon gets its own category because it is a time waster all to itself. What you do is either go to the Web site or install the toolbar, input a list of things you’re interested in, and click the “Stumble!” button. The algorithms will do the rest, and take you to a site that StumbleUpon thinks you’ll like. As you give feedback in the form of likes and dislikes, StumbleUpon becomes more finely tuned to your interests, and is more likely to suggest things you might like. Once you’ve sunk enough time into your personal profile, it’s possible for StumbleUpon to become a little too good. I have permanently removed StumbleUpon from my browser because the recommendations knew me too well. Every time I pushed that button, I found something else to put in my own personal Greatest Hits of the Internet collection. Take it from me: A well-tuned StumbleUpon account is your own personal dispenser of e-crack.

So, I hope this short primer has given you some ideas to help with your procrastination in this most stressful of times. I’ll see you on the Internet.