One of my closest friends is a journalist, a dubious perk of which is an endless supply of hard-hitting, lucid, humblingly well-written articles funneled my direction.
These, along with the slew of timely and important headlines I get from email newsletters, my RSS feed, and simply being a person on the internet are, in turn, funneled into my Pocket, ostensibly to be read “later” — that nebulous space of un-exhausted free time I keep convincing myself I’ll soon have.
Spoiler alert: My Pocket is pretty darn full.
And it gets fuller on the daily. I’ve got all kinds of weighty stuff about the refugee crisis and opioid addictions waiting for me in there, not to mention all-too-quickly-outdated work on any given week’s mass shooting(s). I’ve got articles on the psychology, ineptitude, and evolution-of-power narrative of Donald Trump dated well before Election Day.
And in the time since I, with only the best intentions, populated my to-read list with 10,000-word Times features and lengthy transcripts of important political interviews, I’ve been able to re-watch the entirety of Orange is the New Black in anticipation of the new season — not to mention every video uploaded on this insipid, wasteful and somewhat disgusting (but fascinating!) YouTube channel.
I also bought a Cosmopolitan magazine.
Put simply, I frequently spend the free time I could be using to consume valuable and culturally relevant information on frivolous stuff instead.
After an arduous day of work, reading anything of substance can seem like a burden — so instead, I turn to content that encourages me to enter what I think of as “the nothing box.”
It’s turn-your-brain-off time. It’s fluff. It’s not even fun so much as it is pleasantly numbing.
And I have to admit, it makes me feel more than a little bit guilty.
But should it?
Maybe It’s OK to Waste Time Every Once in a While
One of the reasons I decided to work for myself is because I’m a Type A control freak to a fault. It only takes one glance at the giant planner I carry absolutely everywhere or my intricately detailed, color-coded Google Calendar to know it.
But despite my affinity for efficiency and my ability to time manage a day within an inch of its life, when off-hours finally do arrive, I’ll find myself reading something wholly inefficient and maybe a little undignified. For instance: 6,000 words on T.G.I Friday’s endless mozzarella sticks.
(Author’s note: I have now linked to two Caity Weaver pieces in one blog post. I may have a girl crush.)
I’m certainly not alone in my preference for superfluity, especially in our incredible — and I mean that word with all its weight — political climate.
What can I say about it that’s new? I’m just so fucking sick and tired of reading about how embarrassing and dangerous our elected leader is, how blatantly unfair things are to whole swaths of people for reasons entirely out of their control. I’m done hearing how a lack of communication, empathy, and understanding might just ruin the world, and soon.
But at the same time, not poring over every new piece of damning evidence or worrisome policy shift feels like ignoring my moment in history. More honestly, it feels a little bit like letting go of my outrage, which feels a little bit like letting them win.
It would be hard to argue that the time I spend reading about the sexual proclivities of Nebraskans or the comparative flavor characteristics of fancy brands of butter is time well-spent in any overarching sense. And watching reruns — or, more accurately, playing reruns in the background while spacing out or scrolling through Instagram — is damn near the definition of a waste of time.
Even if it’s not objectively productive, the time I spend devouring nigh-meaningless content* does make me happier, or at least less stressed out. It teases my usually-knit brow down from its knots; it sometimes coaxes me into a smile. On a rare day, there’s even a chuckle or two.
It gets me out of my own head long enough to recharge my batteries, which makes me not only a happier and better-adjusted human being, but also a better creator, communicator, and friend.
In short, it enables me to be positive and intentional — which, along with happiness itself, I insist on thinking of as a small act of resistance.
Or maybe I’m only justifying my own laziness and apathy. But, hey; at least I know how to tell when my man’s faking it, right?
*Dear Caity Weaver, I am in no way disparaging your work, please be my friend