Wikis have an irritating habit of being addictive. You read an article, see some links you like and suddenly you’re reading four or more articles at once. One site I like to do this with is tvtropes.com. Now while reading articles on this site I came across an often-quoted web comic called The Order of the Stick. I decided to read this web comic from the start.
There is a problem. It’s over 600 comics long. The guy who makes this comic sells books, like any other comic, or “graphic novel” for those unwilling to admit to the cultural value of comics, but that’s a different article. My point here is I have suffered, as I often do, from what is known as an archive binge.
Tvtropes.com can explain it best: “Picture the scene. You’re just idly surfing the web. You find a web comic and read the most recent one. You laugh. You decide to read the previous one. That’s funny as well. You read a week’s worth and laugh at all of them. You feel the urge well up inside you. It’s time to go on… an Archive Binge.”
Now the danger of an archive binge in college is not to be underestimated. It can cause you to neglect school work, be late for class, anger significant others – and I’m sure some religion somewhere believes it will tear at the fabric of the time-space continuum. However, to endeavor to read an archive is a noble pursuit that expands personal knowledge, and once completed, creates a feeling of accomplishment.
So, while an archive binge can be bad, all you need to do is carefully monitor the time you spend at an archive. You also need to set very precise times for when you binge. And in trying to moderate, limit the time you spend reading an archive into short periods.
The archive binge itself is not limited to web comics. As noted above, wikis are very susceptible to this, as are archives for newspaper comics, sites like YouTube, and sites that have clips from long running TV shows or the episodes themselves.
All of these have both universal dangers and ones specific to them. YouTube’s vastness and eternal depth could leave someone trapped in a sea of clips, lost forever to cats playing the piano or riding a Roomba. TV clips of a long running show can take hours to complete, and can be a lot harder to time – even without commercials.
Archive binging is bad, usually, but when taken in moderation it is a very good thing. The quest to expand personal knowledge and experience is a valuable trait, and so is learning to manage time when searching an archive.
Although, it’s not really binging if you can do that, which is probably a good thing. But be ever mindful of the dangers of archive binging, and you will know best how to avoid them. Or you won’t, in which case it’s your own blasted fault, and don’t whine to me, because I told you so.