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Tedium in a New Medium

I have a theory about some of the funniest, most compelling, and most intelligent content on the Internet: it’s produced and consumed by educated and funny people who are bored out of their minds at mindless desk jobs.

Let’s call this theory “Tedium in a New Medium”.

Why don’t you think anyone updates on the weekends? Why do you think the acronym NSFW exists?

Here’s a little-known fact: I started Too Shy to Stop while a summer intern at a company which will remain unnamed here. Bored out of my freaking mind and doing lowly intern tasks, I would frequently write elaborate descriptions of places where I bought my lunch (I spent my entire intern salary on food), comment on the literary magazines I read during train rides into New York City, and post reviews of nail polish and salsa (thrilling, I know). In fact, my first post was about a free iced coffee that I got from Dunkin’ Donuts.

I kept up the stealthy blogging for an entire summer, updating on weekdays, sometimes more than once a day (never on the weekends). At another internship that fall, I transformed Too Shy to Stop from my personal blog into a group blog – thus, I had to manage other writers and edit their work. These self-imposed editorial duties took up a lot of internship time. However, I was being not being paid and was also going to school. I spent a lot of time justifying my new-found hobby.

Dear readers, judge me if you must, but I always get my work done in an efficient manner. When I’m working a desk job, I often pretend I’m working because I finish my assignments quickly and worry that my supervisor will have nothing left to give me. Of course, the busy days keep my wandering eyes away from the Internet, but Google Reader and Facebook help me get through the slowest of slow days. One of these days, I should write Mark Zuckerberg a thank you note.

On her personal blog, a friend of mine has a tag called “Clandestine Work Blogging”. I remember laughing out loud when I noticed it; when I asked her if she blogs at work, she told me she never blogs if she has assignments left to complete. She only blogs during down-time. Clandestinely.

You probably wouldn’t even notice much of the brilliant content on the web unless you are sitting in front of your computer all day, and who, really, wants to sit in front of a computer all day without pay? I am famously described by friends as the girl who finds the strangest, and most things on the Internet. How do you think I find these things? If you spend a day in the forest, you will probably see a lot of animals. Similarly, when you spend a time on the Internet, you find random creepy guys peeking from behind doors.

Have you ever heard of the blog Get off My Internets? It’s pretty brilliant and especially funny if you know a thing or two about Internet celebrities/the new media circle jerk. The writers poke fun at everyone from Julia Allison, “new media personality”, to Gawker, a website supposedly devoted to outing the very people it is starting to emulate. The writers who update this blog don’t make any money, but they have enough time to find and poke fun at all the ridiculousness taking place on the Interweb during the day. I love them for it!

Reblogging NonSociety is “dedicated to watching the trainwreck that is NonSociety“. It’s especially popular among people who work in the media industry, who would have heard of Julia Allison (you might know her from the latest Sony ad campaign, which also features Justin Timberlake). A look at the most recent post, “Julia Allison: God Says, ‘Sup‘”, shows a timestamp of 3:25 PM and 65 comments between 3:30 and 6 PM. Clearly, at least one of these 65 people has a job.

At first look, both of these blogs look like horrible hate sites. However, if you spend any amount of time reading the comment thread, you start to realize that the people commenting are intelligent, culturally-aware people who are frustrated with the cult of celebrity and seeking an outlet. You can actually learn a lot from the commenters on both of these sites, and you might learn a little about pop culture and literature/film too. A mutual dislike of Internet celebrities brings these ambitious, hard-working nine to fivers together.

I mean, all the good stuff happens during the day, right? Says Jennifer Deseo, editor-in-chief of The Silver Spring Penguin: “Everyone handles their business while at work. The Penguin hauls steady traffic from 9 AM to 6 PM. It slows down after that, then spikes at 11 PM. I guess people want to be sure they didn’t miss anything before they go to bed.”

She’s right! I don’t want to miss a thing. All this being said, I have gotten in trouble for using the Internet at work. A boss once threatened to monitor my Internet usage despite my overall good performance.

Just yesterday, I blogged about how long I’ve been searching for a job – the confessions in this post probably won’t help my efforts, but I don’t care because everyone surfs the Internet at work! How can you not give your mind a mental break after sitting at a desk and focusing on the same task(s) for eight hours at a time? I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t. Come on, fess up.

I no longer blog at work – I can’t devote enough attention to writing when I have other tasks to complete. However, I still check Google Reader and keep an eye on Twitter during my downtime, of course.

(Photo by LWY)


  1. As an Intern in the DC area two summers ago, I had tons of downtime. I would blog occasionally, but my workspace was far from private so it was hard. In my effort to avoid getting caught, I’d write in word documents then take them home to post. I guess the vibrant grey cubicle was my muse as well.

  2. Michael Thiele Michael Thiele

    I think it’s more than a theory, I think it’s unquestionable. I work at a mindless desk job – the actual work I have to accomplish in an average day would take me about 30 minutes if I just sat down and quickly got through it all. It’s not challenging, it’s not fulfilling, and unfortunately they still have me sit at my desk for the entire 8 hours even if I have nothing to do. Who can blame people for spending downtime at work doing something that fulfills them? I’d love to be in another line of work (one that is fulfilling on its own), but I get paid enough to pay my bills and I have health insurance, so I can’t complain, especially in this economy.

  3. I too blog from work, though I recently became aware that my pasttimes were on the man’s radar. Love GOMI and RBNS, I read them on my Blackberry and blog from home to avoid the chopping block.

    Great post! I’m a fan.

  4. haha, most of our traffic is during work hours – we don’t mind, just makes me feel bad for the employers paying the people who are on our site all day 🙂

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