BOSTON — All right, if there's one major thing I've learned in college, it's how to waste time. I don't just mean the kind of amateur stalling that I practiced in high school. No, this is the big league here. I was officially awarded my black belt in procrastination during finals last semester.
In high school, I at least started my work for the next day by midnight. In college, however, my standard operating procedure is something like this: Do not practice a presentation that is 25 percent of a political science seminar grade until a half an hour before class starts.
Now, why am I so deadline-challenged? It's not just my evident lack of will power. No, I lay the blame squarely where it belongs - on my computer.
I know how ironic it is for me to complain that my computer - an "educational aide" - is responsible for my lack of motivation.
But little did I know that by bringing a computer to college, I would be introduced to so many programs that chip away at my time, entertain me endlessly, and generally encourage me to get as little done as possible.
The best way to avoid doing work is, of course, the Internet. Armed with the latest version of Netscape (Netscape Communicator) and an Ethernet connection (instead of the dial-up modem, an Ethernet is a permanent and extremely fast way of accessing the Internet), I am able to kill incomprehensibly large amounts of time. I am addicted to the Weather Channel online (www.weather. com), I endlessly edit my home page (www.duke.edu/~deb2), and there are so many online games I don't have nearly enough time to play them all.
Moving on through my desktop, we come to my in-box. I never fully appreciated the power of e-mail until I went away to school and started up a correspondence with family and friends all across the country.
E-mail can even be educational - the top news stories are e-mailed to me daily (for free) from CNN. I subscribed to QuickNews (www.cnn.com) a few months ago, and I quickly discovered that it is of immeasurable help in breaking through the isolation inherent in campus life.
But I still love e-mail best because it allows me to keep in touch with everyone without running up enormous phone bills.
Talking to friends for free gets even easier with the enormous popularity of the ICQ (I Seek You) program (www.mirabilis.com). With the click of a mouse it instantaneously sends messages to friends next door or across the country. It also provides a chat service allowing two (or more) friends to get together and "talk."
A similar program, the beta version of AOL's Instant Messenger, can be found at www.aol.com - and this service is available for free to non-AOL members. Its scope is more limited than that of ICQ, since it allows chats only between two people and not messages or multiple chats, but the chances are that my friends have one or the other. Naturally, this reduces still further the time allotted to work.
So how can I possibly get anything done? In college, the ritual of procrastination has reached an irresistible new level. As we sit at our computers, this is what's really happening on college campuses all over the country - and the world. We are known to work diligently on occasion, but the fun we have wasting time is impressive.
One Tuesday night at about midnight, for instance, I sat down to study for a computer science quiz and instead found myself writing this column.
* Diane Bartley is a freshman at Duke University in Durham, N.C. She is studying economics and Spanish - although all plans are subject to frequent changes - and she has always loved to write.