Thursday, May 30, 2013

Consider the Internet as a Tool, not a Time-suck

Latest internet-as-a-tool fave: MOOCS!
It's not a secret that I find the internet one of the best inventions of mankind ever. I can't imagine how I'd be communicating with my husband across the Atlantic if we'd have to rely just on calling cards and letters.

Thanks to my uncles who played around with computers in the 80s, I pretty much grew up with a computer. As everybody from my generation, I remember dialing into the internet in the mid-nineties, insanely long URLs, Encarta and the early news websites. What might have been slightly different from my learning style, is that I embraced the internet as a tool very early on.

Of course, I have procrastinated many hours by surfing around on the internet (who hasn't?), but when I am in the flow in my life, I notice that I don't need this procrastination. Those are the moments that I use the internet as a tool.

My first experience with exploring the possibilities of the internet was during the early 2000s. My graduation project from high school was about the political situation in Lebanon (even though I was planning to study engineering, I graduated with a project for History). All the books and theory about the Middle East left me confused. I felt that I simply couldn't grasp it. And so I ended up mailing/chatting with teenagers from there. The social aspect of interaction characterized my learning style.

Another aspect of my learning style was simple tinkering. I never took a formal course in HTML, but I learned it by trying to put together a website. It was tons of fun to learn-by-doing.

As time went on, I became a forum-enthusiast. Again when I needed to study, I procrastinated by replying to silly game topics, but I also learned a lot about music and gigs on a music forums, and I would have never had my signature long hair if it were not for the forums that taught me how to take proper care of it. I picked up some skills as a moderator on different boards, and then lost interest and started exploring the web 2.0.

An essential question to ask yourself when you open up your laptop, is: "What do I want to know?". You don't want to know how person X looks like on the party of person Y that you didn't attend, right? But you do want to know when your train leaves tomorrow, or you want to learn something about, say, a good workout for your poor back muscles.

Try paying more attention to what you really want to know, and also value the skills you pick up along the way. 
You'll start to realize that, once you value the internet as a productive tool, you will feel less tempted to use it for procrastination.

Do you feel that you can be productive by using the internet as a tool? Share your story and reflections in the comments!

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