The Insider’s Guide to Life: Things You Can Do on the Internet Instead of Working

ColumnSurfin’ USA.

They say the internet is a radical tool for changing the world. Often cited in this lofty claim are Wikileaks and Twitter. The Internet-capitalized is also a scapegoat for the people with excess ear hair to blame the Websites for all that is wrong with The Youth, a disappointing step up from sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. For the inexperienced and Glenn Beck, the internet is a scapegoat for assigning blame for pretty much everything in general. For real journalists working in print media, the internet is a cesspool of aggregation and amateurs in pajamas – but then, we’ve already touched on the people with excess ear hair.

For everyone else, the internet is a sparkling tool of infinite practicality. It’s just not a sparkling tool of infinite practicality for the things you would assume, like online banking or changing your seat assignment. Useful is nice, but, like mayonnaise on a cheese sandwich, pointless is better. The internet serves only one purpose that truly matters, and that is that it is the most effective way in the world to avoid working while at work.

People like me who make internet for a living know that this is why the pageview exists and also why you get the most of them between 9 and 5. You have to entertain all the people manning the companies that don’t have the money to advertise on your website. Far from being the glamorous racket my friends in more respected professions like law and investment banking are convinced it is, media is really kind of a thankless gig.

In between their conferences and hearings, lurking behind their Powerpoint decks, the truth comes out: cute puppy pictures on Tumblr; ex-stalking on Facebook; browser-window shopping on They do not make the connection that while they are tremendously busy at work forwarding chain emails exposing the truth about that dangerous chemical compound that develops when cheese is placed on a saltine cracker in certain states during the months of August and September only, I am slaving over their next viral time-waster. Like this column, for example. But have they thanked me even once?

In a fit of jealous rage after my third sugar-free Hazelnut Vanilla cream latte yesterday afternoon, for which I’m sure there’s a chain email, I decamped for the other side of the screen. Wasting your day on the internet seems to be working for everyone, in the sense that no one’s working. (Which should anger no one. I cite the much-Facebook-liked fact that we are the most productive people on earth as argument. Google it.) It was time for me to give it a go. But where was I?

Oh yes! Here are the things I did on the internet instead of writing my column. I was careful to take scrupulous notes so you can experience the experience for yourself.

7:30 a.m. As the French press steeps my coffee, I stare bleary-eyed at my Facebook wall. A friend’s status update incoming! Something about his cat. Task put off for another time: checking work email.

7:35 a.m. Today I decide I’ll actually open all the email newsletters I subscribe to, and read them.

10:03 a.m. Amazed at the amount of time wasted, I sign up for 17 more daily deal newsletter services. There are more, but I decide I only need one yoga group discount offer a day. Taking a break after the first nine for a bit of aimless scrolling through The Sartorialist and Desire to Inspire, I am inspired to reorganize all my bookmarks into boards on Pinterest, but then I lose interest and decide to check out Facebook again.

10:40 a.m. After updating my Netflix queue and friending three new friends in the Flickr group Bacon Porn, I settle in for an hour of tearing through 30 tabs at the Huffington Post. I feel dirty and liberal afterward.

Noon. I check Facebook again. I am rapt to see my friend has posted three more updates about his cat.

12:03 p.m. Have deleted my first Reddit account after getting into a flame war about doughnut holes. Intense. Going to caption lolcats now. My submission: Kitteh Litter.

3:30 p.m. Facebook. Again with the cat. Of course. It all makes sense now.

3:36 p.m. Phone in to conference call with writers late, blame slow internet. Omit the part about it being slow because of the three browsers, 78 tabs, two streaming episodes of 30 Rock and (what else?) cat video I am watching. I hear the words “Find your own hyperlinks for a change,” which I say out loud in real life. While pretending to listen, I post my scrupulous day-of-surfing notes to the anonymous WordPress blog I built and launched during lunch.

3:49 p.m. My kid brother instant messages me a video about a guy with a bike, which I post on Twitter, where I learn that Jackie Chan has died.

4:00 p.m. The day has simply flown. With an hour left in the workaday, I tuck in for some more Huffington Post but am interrupted by a text from our managing editor: “What the hell was that tweet?”

4:20 p.m. Perusing Reddit, this time under the name surfinusatoday, I notice a reference to 4:20. I look up the meaning on Urban Dictionary.

4:47 p.m. An email from a physician friend who has just saved two people’s lives with her afternoon and wants to grab dinner. “What did you get done today?” she writes. “Oh, you know, the usual,” I reply.

This is the latest (quasi-fictional) installment in your editor’s column, The Insider’s Guide to Life, exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, politics, and anything else. Cheers and spellcheck!

Image: Aine D