Over the last week, I spent a lot of time staring at my computer screen. Due to a flare-up in my arthritis, I found myself with a lot of forced relaxation. One such day, I loaded my Firefox homepage and spent six hours straight surfing the web.
Being a technologically challenged twenty-something, I admit that I frequent the same websites, only venturing outside my comfort zone either for class research or because my StumbleUpon toolbar does the legwork for me.
For those who are unaware of the magic of stumbleupon.com, you owe it to yourself to give in and lose your stumble-virginity. You won’t regret it, though your grades may suffer.
Six hours is a long time. It’s enough time to watch three movies, drive to and from San Francisco for lunch, or fly cross-country (provided you don’t go bankrupt buying a non-stop flight). In those six hours, I discovered that the Internet is a phenomenal place. There is a website for everything you could ever hope to know, and, unfortunately, some things you never wanted to know. There’s even an online cure for boredom, called bored.com.
There is virtually no piece of information a motivated web surfer cannot find. A decade ago, the search for obscure or ancient knowledge might require hours at the local library, a drive to the county clerk’s office, or even a trip across the country to the National Archives. Now all it takes is a decent Internet connection. After hours of googling and clicking on the stumble button, I felt I had the power of the gods at my fingertips.
Here are a few websites I found worthy of checking out; some I knew about before my six-hour exploration, but they’re so good I had to include them:
Fmylife.com: Stories of unfortunate situations and events. Anyone can submit one, and anyone can read them. They’re things that, whether you want to admit it or not, will make you feel better about your own life. Even the entries that strain credulity will make you laugh.
Tellmewhatyoubelievenow.com: The concept behind this website is simple: we all have different thoughts every second of the day. The website template says, “Right now, I believe …” and someone fills in the blank. Every time you click, a new person’s thought pops up, and you can add your own! Think of it as an existential facebook status update.
Etsy.com: It’s like eBay for the homemade set. You can buy all kinds of strange things, like cufflinks shaped like poodles and keychains made out of those old beads you melt together with an iron. The coolest part is you can shop by color!
Hiddensongs.com: Do you know what a hidden song is? I didn’t. Turns out there are often songs at the end of CDs we buy that don’t exist on the back of the case or on any song listing! Who knows how many CDs I’ve bought with songs I never knew existed? Never fear, there’s a list here.
Fuzzmail.com: Okay, this is weird. You can send emails that unveil themselves as if they were watching as you type. It records every keystroke, every backspace, every time you press the space bar once too many times, and replays it all when the recipient clicks on the link. I’ll say this: it definitely makes the email more dramatic. It would be a great way to reveal a secret … stealth-like and suspenseful.
I realized during my six-hour stint as an aimless web wanderer is that too often I use the Internet for a purpose. I seldom surf the web just for the thrill of seeing how much information I have access to. Maybe I can change that and take some time to submit to my online wanderlust.
I confess, I spent a little too much time browsing the depths of the web this week and lost track of time. I didn’t intend to write about the Internet for my column today, but by the time I realized it was time to sit down and write, I no longer had enough time to explore the real world for a topic. Oops! I hope you’ve enjoyed my attempts to distract you into thinking that I always meant to write about spending time aimlessly clicking around and discovering the world wide web.
EMILY KAPLAN has to give props to her editor Richard for referencing fmylife.com in one of the funniest e-mails she’s ever read. If you have any funny e-mails to share, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and good luck on finals!