American science fiction writer William Gibson once penned an article titled “The Net Is a Waste of Time,” featured in The New York Times on July 14th, 1996. Before you make any false presumptions about Gibson, he was in fact a user of the World Wide Web. Gibson still does use the Internet today, as a much older sixty-four year old man. But, when the Internet was in a rather premature stage, Gibson thought it was a haven for wasting time.
It will probably evolve into something considerably less random, and less fun — we seem to have a knack for that — but in the meantime, in its gloriously unsorted Global Ham Television Postcard Universes phase, surfing the Web is a procrastinator’s dream. And people who see you doing it might even imagine you’re working.
It is worth giving the full two-page article a read, as Gibson makes some interesting points from the formative days of the Internet. In the nearly seventeen years since this article was published, the Internet truly has evolved into something much greater than it ever was before. Access to a free, collaborative online encyclopedia in Wikipedia, large social networks in Facebook and Twitter and other online services keep the world increasingly connected and informed.
Then again, the underlying point that Gibson makes still holds true. While a service like Facebook does have ample benefits, it is also a haven for procrastination. Constantly browsing through what other people are doing in their lives, playing mindless games or posting a meaningless status update. That sounds a lot like Facebook. Do you think that Gibson’s argument is true, or is your opinion of the Internet — both now and in 1996 — different?