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The Internet and Laziness

Simon Pitt | Internet | Thursday 30th April 2009

Today I'm going to be asking whether the internet encourages faineance? Hmm, tricky word that, though - not entirely sure if I can remember what it means. Copy and paste it into Google ... ah-ha, first match faineance - definition of faineance by the Free Online Dictionary... And what does faineance mean then:
Noun 1. faineance - the trait of being idle out of a reluctance to work
Ah, so it means laziness, basically. Good. So, does the internet encourage laziness? Dunno, and I can't be bothered to find out. Here, I Googled the question. I haven't actually read any of the pages. I briefly scanned the second one, couldn't really be bothered to read it. I think it's probably a yes.

However, facetious comments aside here, does the Internet make us lazy? It's a common enough complaint, however, I reckon, it's a very lazy complaint (not to mention YET ANOTHER example of the Internet's overly self-reflective nature). After all, take a look at the user filmed videos on YouTube, at the images created by users of DeviantArt and photographs on Flickr, at the hundreds of thousands of blogs, web comics, freeware programmes, and forums on the internet. I can't think of an environment where more people have done more work for less financial reward than on the Internet. When you think of it like that, it's almost embarrassing to say the Internet makes us lazy. If anything, the Internet has engendered a society of people who are passionate about a single project, and who work on it way outside the call of duty. I mean, take any forum, for example. Let's pick one at random. Here we go: A Head Shaving forum. Picking a random topic someone asks the question:
I just bought the Gillette Sensor razors, with triple blades. How many shaves can I get per each blade on average? These things are expensive...
To which he received 29 replies, the first from someone with 5876 posts! I mean, is that lazy? Someone who is putting themselves out to answer other people's questions, concerns and queries about shaving your own head?

Before the Internet, I can't think of a time when so many people spent so much time thinking so deeply about so much crap. Here's a discussion about picking your nose for example. But, nevertheless, people are putting time, effort and thought into all this crap they're spouting. And in many ways, that's important; in many other ways it's stupid, but they're most certainly not lazy.

I think, then, the Internet has changed priorities. While previously, to find out what faineance means you'd have had to go and find a dictionary and look it up, now you can just Google and get a neat answer in 0.07 seconds. That doesn't necessarily lead to people being lazier. After all, the work that you would previously have had to do (i.e., the actual looking it up) was fairly brainless really. The Internet, has removed that brainless drudgery, and I wouldn't necessarily say that's a bad thing.

However, the speed and ease at which you can access that information may change the value you attach to it. In the days when you had to trudge to a bookcase and look it up in Pears encyclopaedia, you'd treasurer the knowledge that the Eiffel Tower was who-the-hell-cares hundred metres tall. Now, you see that information on the screen, and instantly forget it, knowing that if you want to find it out again it's only a brief search away. Information, or rather, facts, have become a disposable commodity, rather than something to be filed away in your brain.

That's a change. That's something caused by the Internet. But does the Internet make you lazy? Well, join a messageboard, ask the question, and discuss the issue at length for a dozen posts (only stopping to call everyone an idiot intermittently) and then think about whether the Internet has made you lazy.

SP



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