I spend way too much time on the internet. Like, an embarrassing amount of time. In fact, it’s such an embarrassing amount of time that I probably shouldn’t admit to it in a public forum, although if you wanted to mail me a new pocket protector to complement my dorkitude, I wouldn’t be too proud to accept.
My current place of procrastination is a social networking site called 43Things.com. The general premise is this: You make an online list of 43 things you want to achieve in your life and then you set about trying to achieve them. And then you connect with all the other people in the world who want to, say, lose 10 pounds, and you all leave virtual “cheers” for each other and talk about walking up escalators and asking for dressing on the side.
Interesting, right? Empowering? And maybe even sort of sweet, this online network of supporters all rooting for you to go bungee jumping or learn Mandarin or spend more time with your kids?
Well, sure. But it’s also fly-on-the-wall fascinating. I had no idea, for instance, that 126 people have made it their life’s aspiration to watch all the episodes of Charmed ever made. Though, apparently, only 104 want to cure cancer. Some of the goals are a little lofty (“kiss Angelina Jolie”) and some of them are just plain impossible (“go back in time and see Led Zeppelin play”). And then there are the list-makers who you kind of contemplate e-mailing because, seriously, a person who wants to “build a secret laboratory inside a volcano” or “dress up like a pirate, hijack a galleon, and board cruise ships without permission” would probably be a pretty great person to have a drink with. In fact, 43Things might just be the poor man’s Match.com.
The message behind the site, apparently, is to “discover what’s important, make it happen, [and] share your progress.” The thing is, though, I can’t help thinking that the act of tracking some of these “goals” is probably taking a lot more energy than the actual execution of them ever would. Renew passport? Watch Grey’s Anatomy? Get colored contacts? I mean, carpe the goddamn diem already! Is our culture of handholding so pervasive that I have to offer you a virtual cheer just for setting your TiVo or making an appointment with Pearle Vision?
And yes, I understand that list-making is conducive to productivity, but when one of your goals is to “stop throwing clothes on the floor” and it’s languishing there at number 28 and people are leaving you cheers to stop you throwing clothes on the floor and hey, guess what, you’re still throwing clothes on the floor, aren’t we then venturing into “all talk and no action” territory?
Because in some cases, admitting to a goal is almost an excuse not to have to do it — or at least not to have to do it any time soon. We confess our secret ambitions like we’re disposing of burdens, relieved that because we’ve now admitted I WANT TO WRITE A NOVEL, we can pretty much go back to not writing a novel. “Look!” we’re screaming, “it’s on my to-do list! I’ve said I’ll do it, what more do you want?”
Personally, my biggest problem at the moment is resisting the urge to click the “I’ve done this!” button next to some of the more esoteric goals on the site, thus making myself The Internet’s Most Accomplished Person. Walk on the moon? Check! Change the world? Done! Prove aliens exist? Yawn! Really, though, I’m just in awe of the guy who’s aiming to “spend less time screwing around on the web.” Because to him I say: good luck, buddy. Let me know if you find a way.
Holly Burns proves aliens exist at www.nothingbutbonfires.com