Sunday, January 10, 2010

Is net surfing bad for you?

This is going to be a short post, and is basically a response to my friends' comments on my last Twit: "Surfing the net is like window shoppingyou lose track of time, get nothing, and end up mentally exhausted and wasted." I first thought I will just write a one-line response, but then I realized that I had a little more to say than just a line or two. So, I thought I will use the blogging platform to write up my response. That said, I will still keep my response very short, because I have to get back to my research papersthe deadline for the Academy of Management conference is just four day away.

Before I write my response, I would first like to thank my friends for their comments. Irrespective of whether they agree or disagree with me, I always value their comments. When they agree, they encourage, and when they disagree, they make me think about the matter more deeply; you need good dozes of both in your life. Needless to say, some of my Facebook friends agreed with my statement and some did not. My friend, Ram commented that surfing the net is the "same as surfing TV channels.. choice of sites/channels matters." While I agree with my friend that choice of sites matters, "surfing the net" often ends being a purposeless and mindless activity for me. I do not mean to deny the excellent value that is in the internet. I myself use it extensively in my research. But I am still not very convinced about the benefits of "net surfing"at least the way I (and I presume, most people) do it.

I have come to view surfing as a very passive activity, where we idly browse through pages on the internet hoping to find something of interest. Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of surfing is not very different; according to it "to surf" means to scan the offerings of (television or the Internet) for something of interest. In other words, surfing the net is more like what you do on the website Surfing is not the same as a specific web search that we may do on Google for a particular topic of our interest. Thus, when we are surfing the internet, we are not looking for anything particular, and are basically browsing through several uninteresting pages before stumbling on something interesting. Because we were not looking for anything specific, the "interesting" page holds our attention only for a few minutes, but then our mind prompts us to scan for something more interesting, and the surfing continues. I think this is the reason that surfing is often very addictingas my friend, Anupama pointed out. The process is not very different from gambling, where gamblers tolerate series of losses before they stumble on a win; the win is appealing but then they think that a bigger win may be in store somewhere round the corner, and the gamble continuesexactly the same way as surfing continues for something more interesting. In the end, we rarely find anything interesting enough, and we end up feeling tired and exhaustedthe same way as gamblers end up being broke. So, in the year 2010, my resolution is to avoid surfing the net, and get more involved in the time tested ways of relieving boredom: reading books, writing, running, hiking, singing, swimming, and some movie watching.

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