As someone who graduated high school just over a year ago, there are few people more qualified to weigh in on the joys of procrastination. For high school students, and for many people in general, the desire to postpone responsibility, especially of the academic sort, is almost elemental.
Similarly, I’ve spent more than my fair share of hours wandering the vast corridors of the Internet, peeking into whatever figurative doors and drawers I encounter, raiding the deepest corners of that digital fairground for some bit of time-killing entertainment that will distract me from the fact that I have a paper, a test, a problem set, maybe even a blog post (sorry, guys), that needs to be finished.
In these “travels”, I have become acquainted with the online miracle that is StumbleUpon – a best friend to every high school and college student who doesn’t care about the French Revolution or about Calculus or Russian literature just yet.
The genius of StumbleUpon, the reason why I so often find myself on it, no matter what I have to get done by the next morning, lies in its ability to constantly unite users with entertaining, fascinating, and intellectually stimulating content.
Some quick background, though, for those uninitiated with the site.
StumbleUpon is what is known as a “discovery engine,” which is a special breed of search engine that recommends content to users based on pre-determined interests and curiosities (as specified by that user).
The site can be added to a user’s toolbar so that at the click of a button, that person can “stumble” to a random webpage that the engine believes will interest them. It’s like a personally tailored “shuffle” system for the Internet, guiding curious Internet fans to everything from tech blogs to webcomics, film theory pages, current science articles or just a cool little online music tool.
To me, this has always been something of a miracle.
As anyone who has been online for more than an hour knows, the Internet is vast, dense, layered and intricate. Its geography is complex and, aside from a few major features (say the Grand Facebook Canyon, or the Great Google Reef), much of its content remains unexplored by the vast majority of users.
Most people who go online, find themselves playing it unfortunately safe, sticking to the islands they know: the social networking sites, the big search engines, the huge shopping conglomerates. StumbleUpon allows its users to conquer those tendencies, beat-back the mind-numbing repetition, and saves the Internet from just a stew of status updates and emails.
This is the tool with which the actual wonder, not just the momentary jolting excitement of a new friend request or victory in an eBay bidding way, the serious, glorious awe of the digital universe can be revealed and unleashed, page by random page by random, awesome, hilarious, exciting, interesting, thought-provoking page.
But if that doesn’t appeal to you, I can promise: it’s still better than studying.