Work, Play, and the Internet

Recently, I finished a stretch of A-Level exams. It’s been stressful and unexpectedly difficult, and it remains terrifying that the results will determine the rest of my life, yet now, they’re over. As I sit writing this, there is nothing I should be doing. No work, no revision. Thus nothing is a distraction, as I thought I would be able to spend hours and hours on Netflix without feeling an inkling of guilt. Yet, I’m surprised to find that’s not the case at all – I feel overwhelmed by the freedom.

I procrastinate a lot, just like the vast majority of people who reside on the internet for the most part of their day. So when I’m working, typing away on an essay or researching a subject, I know that at some point I’m going to find myself engulfed in a discussion on Twitter, or unintentionally watching ‘just one more’ episode of Archer – my current obsession.1 Every time I find myself distracted, a familiar sense of irrepressible guilt blankets over me, and leaves me thinking about the lack of work I’m doing. Often it motivates me to turn back to my folders and books.

Exam season came and went – fast. Two weeks, and seven and a half hours of essay filled exams later, and I sit in front of a desktop with video, music, gaming, networking galore and sense of relief. I don’t have to blow off someone who wants to talk. I don’t have to re-read a book. I don’t have to take notes from a 600 page textbook. I don’t have to make sure my download finishes when I eat my lunch so I minimise the amount of time I’m unproductive. I don’t have to do anything.

Surely now I can relax? But I ask myself: What do I want to do? And the answer is: I don’t want to do anything. Now I have many hours in the day to do what I like, I feel obliged to fill it with all the things I missed out on when I was revising. In spite of that, it seems that doing what I thought I wanted to do has become hard work – there’s so much of it, and I don’t know what to watch or do next. And why, after two more episodes of Archer am I bored of it, where I’d be craving far more if I had work to be done?

To answer, I thought about distraction. About how enticing the sound of a Twitter notifaction is. When I’m working, the Netflix logo is seductive and my phone’s notification light, provocative. I fall for their allure as soon as I notice them, whether I’m revising or not. Now, I can go to these distractions without any guilt. But I go to them with less excitement. Because they are no longer breaks. Because they don’t relieve me from what I’m supposed to be doing.2

And that’s why I’m bored after a few hours of TV. Because the TV becomes my work, and so does Twitter, and text messages and Facebook and scrolling endlessly through Reddit. I need a distraction from that. I need to be pulled away from satisfying my guilty pleasure of binge-watching and illusory internet socialising. I can’t go out, it’s raining. So what do I do? I write.

There is now so much to do, and all of it is overwhelming. The internet has become inordinate too me. It’s not boring, but it isn’t satisfying. What is satisfying, is moving away from the internet. Over the summer, commitments and what would previously feel like hard work will become less strenuous, I hope.

Because when the internet is no longer a distraction, work becomes play. And that’s a great feeling. I’ve come to realise, the internet doesn’t make me unproductive – if I indulge myself in it’s pleasures, I’ll end up more efficient and more prolific – I begin to value my time without it.

It’s nice to be back. At the same time, It’s nice to get away.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Archer is a beautifully animated comedy about a spy agency. It’s described as a mix between James Bond and Arrested Development, my absolute favourite sitcom of all time due it’s stellar, insanely clever writing and brilliant cast (Many of whom also star in Archer). Archer is politically incorrect, funny, and smart and is much recommended for when you’ve finished Arrested Development.
  2. I say ‘relieve’ but I truly wouldn’t be studying a subject if I didn’t enjoy it