An Online World: Students must resist Internet distractions

[media-credit name=”Julia Moss” align=”alignnone” width=”555″] An Online World is a blog updated twice a month exploring the Internet’s effects on society and on our lives.

by Leah Budson

It’s 12 p.m. on a Sunday, and I have about four hours of homework left. A few websites later (Facebook, tumblr and Netflix), it’s 4 p.m., and all I have to show for the time is three math problems and a Word document with exactly three lines of text: my name, date and class.

Students today can access a universe of distractions from the same device that they use to complete their assignments, making it difficult to finish homework in a practical length of time. If students were able to work without these distractions, they might find that their “entirely unreasonable” homework load is actually quite manageable.

For me, there are two tendencies that compel me to check social networking sites, even though I know they distract me from my homework.

The first is an irrational belief that I will miss something important by remaining unconnected. What if my history teacher emails me with a heads-up on a new assignment or my best friend sends an inbox about a social crisis that needs immediate attention?

Although it could be helpful to be aware of a new assignment, the likelihood that I have received an email about one is relatively slim. Furthermore, if I haven’t finished my current homework, knowing about another piece of work is just another distraction.

As for a possible friend crisis, half the time these “crises” are not as big a deal as they seem, further wasting my time. And if there actually is an emergency, I can always be reached by phone, even if I choose to stay off the Internet.

In the end, checking social networking sites for the sake of being aware of something urgent is irrational. The likelihood of receiving a message that requires immediate attention is all but nonexistent, and the vast majority of the time messages are not as urgent as one might think.

The second difficulty in remaining disconnected from Internet sites is harder to combat, as it is the slippery itch of addiction that is a byproduct of the online world we live in. For me, checking Facebook has become less of conscious choice and more of an instinct. As soon as I open a new window, I am on the site before I remember what I meant to search.

This addiction is harder to combat––what is really necessary is willpower. Turning off one’s cell phone or simply refusing to go to a website is difficult, but it is essential to preventing the waste of time.

Besides sheer willpower, a second way of forcing oneself to focus is using an application that blocks any websites one asks it to, such as the free application Self Control, made by Steve Lambert. Once this application has been set up, there is no way to turn it off for the length of time one specified previously.

Whether you can restrain yourself from accessing social networking sites by reminding yourself that there is no need to access them, or you need to entirely limit your ability to access other websites with an application, staying off the Internet while doing homework will save you immense amounts of time. Ultimately, you will be able to finish your homework more quickly and spend the rest of your time enjoying the Internet or another activity without the nagging thought that you still have homework left to do.

Click here to read the last edition of An Online World. 

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