The Internet is not a time-suck, it’s a learning tool (that is also a time-suck)

The Hyperloop: ILLUSTRATION BY HTT/JUMPSTARTFUND/OMEGABYTE

Mine is the generation of the internet. We are hooked up, logged on, and plugged in, the entire world at our fingertips. This, of course, has caused the previous generation (cough-babyboomers-cough) to call us names like “lazy” or “narrow focused,” because I would rather surf Twitter than play stick ball. I’ve had these exact insults thrown at me (the “narrow-minded” thing, not the stick ball thing) and my age group by older classmates and respected colleagues, and it never fails to get my blood boiling. Especially when moments like earlier this week happen.

A bit of background. A few years ago I was interning at Toonari Post, an international online news and media website that runs purely on the work of volunteer writers. During my time there, I wrote an article about The Hyperloop, an innovative idea straight out of the mind of Elon Musk (who, if you don’t know, is the real life Tony Stark). In my article, I explain that the Hyperloop is “..a high-speed transportation system that would get passengers from Los Angeles to New York in 45 minutes.” Musk came up with the idea after hearing about the California High-Speed Rail Line project, a project that would cost over $60 billion dollars, destroy farmland, and generally piss off everyone. I imagine Musk took one look at the project plans, which detailed a slow, eco-destructive, and basically useless train system that wasn’t even the best kind of train system then currently in production, and felt compelled to fix the mistake the way a professor marks up your term paper in red ink. (I.E. “you did not follow directions, please re-read assignment and try again”).

So, the HyperLoop. You know those tube things in Futurama? It’s kind of like that…ish. It’s a air-tube system that would run off solar power, be held up by pylons to minimize eco-destruction, and be the fastest public transportation ever. Musk’s preliminary designs were outlined in his technical paper Hyperloop Alpha.

Futurama, Photo credit http://www.thefightingcock.co.uk

So what in the world does this have to do with insults, online presence, and my own righteous annoyance? Well, my loveable boyfriend is a techy, which means he loves technology and is glued to the internet on a 20/7 basis (he sleeps sometimes). Every day, he invariably shares information, news, and funny memes with me (most often when I’m trying to concentrate on my novel) and earlier this week he sent me this link. It’s to an article explaining how, two years after my old article came out, the Hyperloop prototype is now in its testing stages! I was so excited and immediately started reading and doing further research. The design had changed a bit over the years and I relished being able to compare the knowledge of then to now, clicking through articles and postings, reading the PDFs of the designs and plans.

At some point those insults came back to me. Narrow-minded indeed! I’m a writer with no scientific skills whatsoever, but I’m also a scholar. I love to learn, to explore (as most writers tend to love, that’s part of the drive to write) and so taking a little while to educate myself on this obscure but so important breakthrough was a no brainer.

This is obviously just one moment where, in the midst of my daily life, I felt a bit of victory in proving social stereotype wrong and I thought to share it. Yes, I am more often than not finger-swiping through my phone apps, scrolling through Twitter, and friend-stalking on Facebook, but between the posts and pokes, I’m also taking in information. I’m learning in a way that doesn’t even feel like learning, but simply fun, which (by the way) is what education is SUPPOSED to be. So fellow “lost” generation-ers, don’t let the ones who don’t understand progress get you down! Just tweet about them and move on, you’ve got important stuff to click through.

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2 thoughts on “The Internet is not a time-suck, it’s a learning tool (that is also a time-suck)

  1. The “older classmates” comment makes me stop and wonder who in particular it might have been…

    But I definitely know what you mean. Twitter is a good example. I see a lot of people complain that things like Twitter make us “anti-social” and that “kids don’t talk to each other nowadays.” But in reality, I don’t think it’s having a negative impact on us at all. If your kids are sitting at the dinner table checking their phones, that’s no different than in the 80s when your kids would have been watching TV, listening to their Walkman, or using some other means to avoid socializing with their family.

    And Twitter is a very valuable and useful tool. I’ve used it for research on many occasions (#Core2s14!). I use it to network with other writers and people in the publishing field. I use it to promote my blog and my novel. I’ve made a lot of good friends there. I’ve even made romantic connections; the last three girls I dated were all people I met on Twitter.

    I see anything online as a tool. If you use it to spend six hours playing Candy Crush, then sure, the internet is being a time suck. But there’s lots of ways that it helps my productivity, and I’m glad that I’m always “plugged in.”

    • Don’t worry, it wasn’t you! (As if you’d ever dis the wonders of the web). It was someone outside the graduate circle, an adult student that seemed to embody the “you rascal kids get off my lawn” approach to life. You’re right that anything that can be used for good can also be used for evil, a.k.a. Candy crush and other mindless uses, and there will inevitably be those who ignore the mountain range of possibilities the Internet holds to get the new high score (though mindless escape does have its uses). I think the best way I would try to explain it to someone of that “they’re lazy” or “unsocial” mentality would be to try to explain that the few ruin the image of the many. I get so many ideas for my writing, fiction or otherwise, from surfing my networks, talking to others, and seeing different perspectives that are available only on the Internet.

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