Imagine a scholar’s life before the Internet. They probably had to leave their rooms to avoid achieving things and their lives must have been heartbreakingly bereft of adorable cat pictures. Procrastination is now a thing of utmost ease, but the online world is not merely a space to order pizza and watch videos of baby sloths (though both of these things are valuable (mis)uses of your time). If you invest enough effort, you can find some surprisingly educational and useful things out there.
Perhaps you have an essay to write on some thrilling topic like the use of names in Paradise Lost? You should probably check YouTube before starting, and I’d recommend two or three hours watching back-to-back episodes of The Brain Scoop (youtube.com/thebrainscoop) as a worthwhile distraction.
With Emily Graslie as an unexpectedly enthusiastic presenter, it is surprisingly easy to watch a wolf being skinned and gutted on screen in preparation for the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum in Montana. The Brain Scoop’s tumblr (thebrainscoop.tumblr.com) is equally gross and informative, as Emily answers questions and posts photos about dissection and museum life in general. This isn’t a topic I find any desire to pursue in real life, but that doesn’t make these videos any less fascinating or addictive.
If you want to find something more ‘relevant’ to your work, but still find yourself on YouTube instead of starting your hot date with Microsoft Word, you might be interested in Crash Course (youtube.com/crashcourse); with series on Literature, History, Biology and Chemistry, there is something almost relevant to any degree. These videos also have enthusiastic presenters: John and Hank Green (novelist and entrepreneur, respectively).
Their passion for what they are ‘teaching’ is a clear highlight and helps to infuse supposedly ‘dull’ topics with an undeniable sense of fun. At almost ten minutes per video – a considerable length for YouTube – these will fruitfully engage your time and your intellect (at the expense of your essay).
It’s not all high brow stuff, however; you can find tutorials for most things online, and with just a little creativity on your part and a few seconds of Googling, you can find videos or websites dedicated to knitting, fixing your car, belly dancing, painting, make-up and so on. You are essentially only limited by your own imagination, although in spite of the myriad make-up tutorials I have watched, the talent for subtle and skillful painting of the face still eludes me.