University is a great time to go out, meet people, find yourself and create connections and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Well that’s what I was told anyway. From a young age I hated moving school, solely for the fact that I am terrible at meeting new people. I don’t mean this in a cute way either. I mean that I genuinely make terrible first impressions and will often freeze up, mumble and panic my way through initial conversations with people.
I even freeze up when going to up to a counter to order food at a restaurant. This is why whenever people complain how a clerk was rude and didn’t talk to them, but instead simply blanked them and just did the bare minimum, then I have no idea what their complaint is. I love hateful clerks. They listen to my order, take my money and want me out of there as soon as possible. As soon as anyone I’m confronted with makes an unfunny joke that I have to fake laugh at or asks me a question, regardless of how simple or existential that question is, I will murmur some stupid response back at them. If they then aren’t content with just awkwardly smiling and letting me leave as fast as possible and instead ask me to repeat myself, I can almost hear my soul dying somewhere far beyond in the emptiness of the spirit plain as I must contain my panic, focus my eyes off of the floor and back to their face and then repeat whatever dull and pointless response I hurriedly made simply to leave their presence.
That doesn’t make me an asshole though. I quite like people. Well that’s a slight lie because I find quite a lot of people are pretty boring and similar, the same thoughts and feelings all copy and pasted into another similar smiling shell. But there are a lot of people that I do like. I knew I was being lied to with university though. I knew it was going to be awkward and horrible to begin with, but people wouldn’t just let me have my short sighted negativity. Instead I was told it’d be really great to meet new people, a statement which they had ironically made in the belief that they were social and understood people, whilst completely misunderstanding me.
And when I got there I knew I’d been lied to by all of their stupid happy faces. I think it’s a shame that confident people don’t understand what it’s like to be uncomfortable and nervous all the time. I’m not dismissing them for it, in fact I’m very jealous of people who can live like that and would never want to give them advice about how to be worse at life. But all the advice that they give which centres around feeling positive and believing in yourself is rendered moot when I’m in a crowd of people and my own brain is yelling at me that people won’t like you, they think you look weird and if I do any wrong move then I’ll look like an idiot. Not that I didn’t already look like one, I kindly remind myself.
But this isn’t a sob story about how I never made any friends. It’s very hard not to make friends at university because wherever there’s a confident happy person then there’ll be an endless annoying army of them suffocating you with their optimism. And for every self loathing idiot, there’ll be a sparse few of them hiding somewhere in the corner and hoping that all the socialising would stop soon because unlike everyone else they came to university solely for an education and none of this networking stuff. But they’re really lovely people and you really should talk to them sometime. Actually, in fact don’t do that because it’ll just make them uncomfortable.
So based on all this introduction, I’ll get to the meat of this article. This actually happens to a lot of people I imagine and is simply the symptoms of living a student’s lifestyle, which is quite plausibly the easiest life that anyone has ever lived in the history of human kind. There were probably kings of the greatest ancient empires that have ever reigned who didn’t have lives as easy as this. An ancient king would have thousands of servants and luxuries at his disposal, but no matter how many men he commanded he would never have the ability to have instant noodles or rewind live television.
It’s this easy going lifestyle, and by easy going I also mean uneventful lifestyle which leads to basically all students spending copious hours on the internet. Even when you were at secondary school, sure you went on the internet when you got home and on weekends, but you still had to be at school for most of the day and at least even have to spend some time eating or talking with your family to break up that sweet, sweet internet time. Now as a student, you can choose to go to university sometimes, if at all. You don’t even have to spend any time away from your laptop or phone now, having the complete freedom to have it with you while eating, showering or even mindlessly surfing the net when in lectures themselves, the first classroom of your life where the teacher literally doesn’t care if you’re paying attention or not.
Also given that you’re in a new environment where you don’t know anyone and if you also don’t like doing what seems like the only method of meeting people at university i.e clubbing every night, then you’re really by yourself for a lot of the day. And week. And month. So I found myself sitting in my room for weeks on end basically doing nothing. At the of the day when I was lying in bed, still on the internet listening to a podcast before I finally passed out, I would quickly reflect on what I had learnt that day from the information highway. Nothing came to mind. Absolutely nothing.
Even with all of the illegal downloads and streaming I could be doing. All of the old PC games I could be playing and all the TV shows that I’d fail to catch up on. None of these came to mind. Sure I remember I’d been on Reddit and seen some funny pictures, checked Kotaku for some updates on games (that I wasn’t playing) and spent hours on Youtube watching whichever random person or subject I had decided to splurge on that day. That day it happened to have been Robin Williams and so I had seen more William’s stand ups and interviews than I think any form of life should have to endure.
But I wasn’t doing anything constructive at all, or at least to the extent that catching up on House M.D can be called constructive. I checked my history, and there it was. Nothing. Just a endlessly repeating list that flowed in a set pattern of ; Youtube for several hours, then Reddit, Kotaku, Youtube, Kotaku, 4Chan, porn, Youtube, porn, Kotaku, porn, uncommon break for lecture, porn.
As you can see, there is an odd and in explicable correlation between an increased ability to look at naked ladies and an increase in the frequency of it happening. And so began the slow and steady trap of internet obsession becoming the inevitable and near indistinguishable pornography obsession. But I won’t go into that one here so much.
The sad thing is I can’t think of near anyone who doesn’t spend most, if not all of their free time on the internet simply doing nothing. Whether it’s social networking or watching the same, mostly unfunny videos on Youtube and then sharing them through social networking to spread them even further to waste the time of other countless people. Whilst a student, I fear most people are probably doomed to experience this and as I said before, being a student with little to no actual responsibilities and a bucket full of optional free time, is the perfect environment for this to happen.
When you’re 30 and actually working a full time job, it’s true that you won’t be able to be on the internet and do what you want at all hours of the day. But when you come back home, it’ll be there, your own little pod of escapism. The anti boredom machine that you can just sit and gawp at for hours on end until finally you have to go to bed in order to continue your life some more. The very same life that you’ll wish away so you can spend some more time on ThingsYouDidn’tKnow.com, and end up having to click through 15 pages of content to learn some facts that will never at all be useful and will also remain useless in conversation with your friends, since they’ll have all seen the exact same thing on Facebook too.
The worst part is you’ll probably only remember three or so of the facts because the internet and it’s emptiness has destroyed your attention span beyond repair and so given that nobody will remember any of the facts you probably will be able to tell people the exact same facts that they already read, but had just forgotten about.
The sad thing is this is all unpreventable. The internet is a really great place to get easy stimulation and it’s so many things rolled into one, as well as with the current trend for all our electronics to try and be one fits all tools, that it’ll be basically impossible to separate any of your individual recreational activities from the computer soon. And so you’ll always be connected. You’ll get irritated when your 3G is slightly slow, even though it’s basically incomprehensible magic to you. But that slowness will drive you onto 4G, so you’ll have even more coverage, so you can be connected even when you leave the house. It’ll be like an addiction to you, no better than cigarettes. Whenever someone says a fact that you don’t know or asks for train times, or even whether or not you want to watch a film. If you can’t verify any of these details through online timetables or review sites within a second by getting the little black rectangle out of your pocket, then you’ll get snappy and confused and angry. Angry that you couldn’t have it now.
Internet addiction, or at least internet reliance, is in some ways the worst of addictions to have. Unlike addictions to drugs, alcohol or even yo-yoing, using the internet is promoted, if not forced on you by society. At some point you will have to use the internet, not even rarely, but probably out of necessity for your job. Living in a world where you are forced to use what you already waste all of your current earthly hours on is terrible. It’d be like being an alcoholic living in a alternate universe where all forms of business and leisure can only be carried out by drinking whiskey.
If you were busy all the time and had stuff to do then this wouldn’t have happened. Your life would work in wonderful synchronicity with the internet. But you were a student once, you got bored, you had nothing to do and so you began looking at the internet all the time because your laptop and phone were the only things that you could easily transport to your halls for entertainment. What about books you ask. No one reads books. At least only in e-book form. Real books are rubbish. They’re not colourful enough and you can’t tap on a book at any point to bring up a video of some fat kid embarrassing himself.
So, aside from the fun memories, the extreme drinking, long awaited sexual encounters, strange flatmates and maybe at the end of it all, a degree. You’ll also receive an internet addiction. Enjoy that one.
Written by Harvey Clayton-Wright