Next semester, students at the University of Pennsylvania will have a new course to spend their tuition dollars on: “Wasting time on the Internet.” No, we didn’t just make it up. The course, part of the English curriculum, will include a laptop and Wi-Fi but no actual lessons or classes.
Now isn’t that a dream course?
The only objective of the course would be to find meaning in the time the students spend alone with a computer.
“Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs,” says a statement on the university’s website.
But there is a reason to this madness: “Using our laptops and a Wi-Fi connection as our only materials, this class will focus on the alchemical recuperation of aimless surfing into substantial works of literature.”
“Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed? Could we reframe the internet as the greatest poem ever written?”
Wait, are they trying to turn Internet surfing in to work?
It seems so, as the statement describing the course goes on to state that students would be required to read “the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting through critical texts” as well as thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly Erving Goffman, Raymond Williams, John Cage, Henri Lefevbre, etc.
“I’m very tired of reading articles in The New York Times every week that make us feel bad about spending so much time on the Internet, about dividing our attention so many times,” explains Kenneth Goldsmith, who’s heading the course.
It may sound like a load of hogwash, but consider this: wasting endless hours on the Internet will start making sense to the students signing up for the course. They will see patterns and solutions and create something worthwhile from all the time "lost" surfing the Internet.
Here’s a list of countries by the number of Internet users:
And the number is increasing by the second.
Let’s face it much of the time is spent on sites like, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Studies may suggest excessive internet use may cause parts of teenagers’ brains to waste away, or give rise to depression as well as a myriad of problems including headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbance but that doesn’t deter the enthusiasts.
A 2013 survey including more than 1,000 people showed 69% of the people surveyed wasted time at work every single day. Thirty four percent said they routinely waste 30 minutes or less each day while on the clock, and 24 percent said they waste between 30-60 minutes daily, with 11 percent claiming they spend several hours wasting time on non work-related items on a daily basis.
Keeping the stats in mind – not to mention the frustration at seeing people glued to their laptop/ tablet/phone screens – the new course at the University of Pennsylvania has great merits.