Kenneth Goldsmith's Viewpoint on Whether the Internet Is a Waste of Time: An Essay

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According to Kenneth Goldsmith’s essay, ‘Go Ahead: Waste Time on the Internet’, people have not figured out how the usage of the Internet can have multiple ways to be used. According to the author, “We’re not all using our devices the same way. Looking over the shoulders of people absorbed in their devices on the subway, I see many people reading newspapers and books and many others playing Candy Crush”. There are many ways to use the Internet, but there still a learning curve on how to properly manage the time spent on it for serious stuff or entertainment purposes. Goldsmith's main point is that it's not easy to say whether the Internet is a waste of time.

Goldsmith presents many ideas that can be discussed when talking about the changes going on in our society with the usage of the Internet being all over us. First, he discusses in what way is he wasting his time on the Internet making himself a lot of questions, for example: “What if I’ve spent hours working, and I need a break? Am I wasting time if I watch cat videos, but not if I read a magazine story about the Iran nuclear deal?”. Goldsmith describes the Internet as a ‘monolith’, like a huge building with many departments, creating confusion the user head trying to figure its purpose.

Second, the author compares the distractions available with the Internet today and from the past with TV where he finds interesting that “our time spent in front of the computer is a mixed time, a time that reflects our desires— as opposed to the time spent sitting in front of the television where we were fed shows we didn’t necessarily enjoy”. By comparing the old days with TV’s and the Internet today, Goldsmith presents many ideas to support his point that Internet is more resourceful when it comes to only see what you want instead of watching something you don’t enjoy because is the only thing you have available at the time.

Third, Goldsmith discusses if the Internet is making society as a whole antisocial, but he believes that we now have “a great wealth of concentration, focus, and engagement”, so people are still “communicating with one another: texting, chatting, IM’ing”. When it comes to making society antisocial, he believes that the Internet improves our communication skills because we are consistently texting and engaging with family, friends and others online.

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The author, to empathize the changes caused by using the Internet, talks about how “every new media requires new ways of thinking”, and that’s why “our brains are being rewired” when any change happens. He discusses of a night where his wife barely moved while reading a “171-year-old narrative on her 21st-century device”, to tell him good night when he went to bed to provide an example of what he says in the text early on that “we skim and browse certain types of content, and read others carefully”. Goldsmith believes that most of the time we will lose concentration because of distractions on our phones, but with this example he shows that even important things can take away our attention of our surroundings while using the Internet.

Also, Goldsmith paraphrases and quote Marshall McLuhan work thoughts on how other media don’t want the Internet to succeed where he discusses that “the vested interests of acquired knowledge and conventional wisdom have always been by-passed and engulfed by new media. The student of media soon comes to expect the new media of any period whatever to be classed as pseudo by those who have acquired the patterns of earlier media, whatever they may happen to be”. McLuhan compares how each media one day will have its competitor and the media that might be left behind will oppose the new one heavily by criticizing and being skeptical about the new use of information. He is told “that the excessive use of computers has led our kids to view the real world as fake”, but after trying to figure if he could see the difference between real or fake, he questions himself “how is [his] life on Facebook any less ‘real’ than what happens in my day-to-day-life?”. He points out that today you can find “work opportunities, invitations to dinner parties, and even the topics [he] discuss at those dinner parties” while online.

Goldsmith uses examples from his family and friends when taking their kids devices away as his sister-in-law tried to take her kid devices to see how things would go because of an article online talking about how devices are ruining your child and it turned out in the next morning after she questioned them his plans for the day, her children answered with “None”, because “[She] took away [his] phone”. On another situation, he shows that kids use the Internet to communicate with friends and find their interests as Goldsmith says that the kids “was forced to reconsider her premise that her daughter was just wasting time on the Internet; instead, she was fully engaged, fostering an aesthetic, feeding her imagination, indulging in her creative proclivities, and hanging out with her friends, all from the comfort of a remote hotel room perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon”.

In conclusion, Goldsmith states that those who critique the Internet today are begging for the return of controllable emotions and self-reflection while feeling alone on a “quiet [place] far removed from the noises of our devices”. But these times reminds him of “gated communities” away from the mixture of new ethics we have with the social life on the Internet.

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Kenneth Goldsmith’s Viewpoint on Whether the Internet Is a Waste of Time: An Essay. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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