The Internet is a vast and unique virtual landscape full of hope and opportunity. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like most college students, you probably aren’t taking full advantage of even a fraction of the possibilities that are out there. In fact, you’re probably jabbering away on AIM or checking Facebook right now to make sure that you’re still winning the poke war.
According to a study by the Internet & American Life project, on a typical day college Internet users use instant messaging more than twice as much as other Internet users. The same study indicated that 42 percent of college Internet users depend solely on the Web for communication and that the most popular use for the Internet among college students was forwarding messages to friends and family. Another study by professor Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University discovered that 72 percent of college students rated Facebook as their favorite site. There is more to life on the Web than that, you can be sure. So be brave, read on and discover that the Internet is more than a huge dictionary combined with a glorified phone.
Waste time with something worthwhile
The Onion (www.theonion.com) is a healthy alternative to the deluge of seriousness provided by the majority of mainstream media. The satirists running the site expertly twist the latest mainstream media headlines, often with hilarious results. They also have audio shorts for those too lazy to read.
Post Secret (postsecret.blogspot.com) is an Internet art project and an outlet for people with secrets to express themselves anonymously. Each Sunday, a new selection of decorated postcards emblazoned with a variety of secrets appears on the site. The content is sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes weird and always entertaining.
The classroom is not the only place to learn
How Stuff Works (www.howstuffworks.com) is a great site for anyone curious about, well, pretty much anything. The site is divided into topics such as home, health and money. The content is presented in an easy-to-understand manner with plenty of pictures. Bottom line, it’s a great way to pass the time and learn something simultaneoulsy.
Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org) is possibly the most taboo word aside from plagiarism when it comes to college research, but it can be extremely useful. The fact that the content is edited by a community of people who use the site does mean that it lends itself to a certain level of inaccuracy, but it also manages to host articles on a massive variety of topics. You can research anything from string theory to Clarissa Explains It All, but remember to take your results with a grain of salt.
References for the rest of us
Rate My Professor (www.ratemyprofessors.com) has been a longtime resource for savvy college students looking for an edge. If you don’t already know about this site, you need to. Students rate their professors using the criteria of clarity, helpfulness and easiness as well as whether they are hot or not (just for fun). This shouldn’t be the only tool you use when choosing a professor, but it is useful.
Allmusic (www.allmusic.com) is an indispensable aid in light of the ever-increasing popularity of digital music. Using the site, one can discover who influenced a particular musician or whether they have performed any songs by other artists. If you want to try out an album from an artist you do not know much about, allmusic can give you their pick for the best one – plus the site hosts reviews of albums and artists. For all things music, allmusic is a must.
There you have it: the remedy for misuse of the Internet in three acts. So close that IM window and stop filling out that asinine Myspace survey – no one really cares what the last thing you ate was, anyway – and surf to a site you can actually use.