Wanted: distracting internet stuff, NOT politics or current events
October 10, 2016 5:13 AM   Subscribe

I am losing my mind because of this election and the state of the world. In an effort to retain sanity I am trying to find alternate ways to entertain myself on the internet that have NOTHING to do with politics or current events. Please help.

Let's just say that the US election, Donald Trump, climate change, Brexit, Syria, and all the many other assorted things going on in the world have me in a ... not-good mental place.

I should just unplug entirely, but my job requires the computer and internet. Long, sad experience has proven that when I need five minutes to take a break from my work activity to clear my mind, and the election thread or Facebook or the Guardian is RIGHT THERE, I utterly fail to have the willpower to not look. But all this reading about humanity's awfulness is making me bitter and unhappy and I can't go on like this.

So my new plan is to find other things on the internet to do instead. Criteria:
- needs to be mildly engrossing: enough to be at least a slightly tempting alternative to current events, but not so much that I can't disengage to get back to work
- lets me dip in and out for five or ten minutes at a time
- has NOTHING AT ALL to do with any aspect of the current state of the world

It can be things to read, games, puzzles, whatever. For instance, my partner just showed me this geography guessing game and it's been great. I also quite enjoyed reading the backlogs of PhD comics, and love reading about random diseases on Wikipedia (yes: I am strange). The point is that I'm not particularly picky and indeed love variety. Assume I am a typical Metafilter person: nerdy, loves science and puzzles and games and fiction.

Please save me from myself.
posted by forza to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube video of "Primitive technology" as featured on the blue previously.
posted by wilful at 5:23 AM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like webcams of well-cared-for animals for this. Pick your favorite animals and there is probably a webcam for them somewhere. My personal go-tos are the Vancouver Aquarium's Baby Otter Cam (on the blue a few weeks back), and Bat World's bat cams (though these are mostly active at night - still it's very cute when the caretaker comes around and hands melon bits to the bats).

To me, there's something rather meditative about just sitting still and watching happy animals for a while.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:26 AM on October 10, 2016 [9 favorites]

StumbleUpon exists to provide diversions by taking you to web pages with content that interests you. It seems to meet all your criteria, especially since there is a wealth of categories to choose among.
posted by DrGail at 5:27 AM on October 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I recently discovered the Graham Norton show, which has snippets from 1-10 minutes long on YouTube. It's friendly and jovial, like being invited into a fireside chat at a friend's house. I don't even normally care for talk shows, or about celebrities, but this just manages to be funny, friendly, and human.
posted by spindrifter at 5:34 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best torrent sites for anime are NyaaTorrents and BakaBT. The best anime torrent aggregator is TokyoToshokan.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are a number of really wonderful people fostering kittens and broadcasting a room full of growing kittens and their mommas to the world. My two favorite places to check for a quick breather from the rest of the world are Tiny Kittens and Foster Dad John.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:51 AM on October 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you like playing video games at all then these are super fun and don't take very long to do each level:
Bloons Tower Defense 5
Kingdom Rush
Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

posted by Mouse Army at 6:26 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of my all-time favorite things on the internet is The Lewis Hine Project. Lewis Hine was a photographer who traveled around the US in the early 20th century taking pictures of child workers in an attempt to convince people to outlaw child labor. The Lewis Hine project identifies the children, researches what happened to them, and interviews their descendants. It's like genealogy in reverse, and it's pure awesome.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Have you checked out the site of the National Organization for Rare Disorders? Might scratch your Wiki disease itch.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:33 AM on October 10, 2016

Pretty good
posted by flabdablet at 6:34 AM on October 10, 2016


seconding Graham Norton. Sometimes you can get the whole show on youtube. But look for clips featuring "the big red chair".
posted by james33 at 6:42 AM on October 10, 2016

Ooh, another thing I like to do when I'm feeling rabbit-holey is to google for forums related to keeping some specific pet - hamsters, octopi, hermit crabs, you name it (these links are just from google searches right now and represent the types of places I'll read, but I can't specifically endorse any of them). It fascinates me to see how DEEPLY invested people get with whatever their pet of choice is, and I love coming across all the odd lingo for any given group of pet people. There are so many ways you can drill down into this stuff - there are sub-sites about health issues if you're interested in random diseases, photos sub-sites if you'd just like to see cute critter pics, sub-sites about care and behavior of that specific pet if you're curious what it owning one is like ... People can make an entire sub-culture out of just about anything, and for whatever reason I find these pet owner communities SO interesting.

(and going back to my critter web cam suggestion from before, I love watching the Camp Bow Wow "camper cam"s, even when my dog isn't there - the link goes to our CBW but there are others. Happy dogs romping around and just being exuberant little dorks, they always cheer me up)
posted by DingoMutt at 6:50 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Kid Should See This is a curated list of short kid-appropriate (but not necessarily childish)videos. As such they are all SFW, engaging, and not especially topical.

The other thing that sucks me in is episode recaps of shows that I wish I hadn't bounced off of. Actually watching Breaking Bad stressed me out too much but I like knowing what happened. Soaps, too; I'm not at a TV during the day and I don't really like watching them anyhow, but the ridiculousness is fun to read about.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2016

I use wimp.com as a quick and easy getaway (family friendly videos; 5 new each day; but the selections aren't as awesome astheyt used to be).
posted by TinWhistle at 7:15 AM on October 10, 2016

Have you gone through all of the posts tagged as happyfunseptember yet?
posted by Wordshore at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2016

I use animal cams also. You can see Tarra right now at https://www.elephants.com/elecam#elecam. These are rescued circus elephants.
I like this one too: http://www.zooatlanta.org/1212/panda_cam#u-ken
posted by It'sANewDawn at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some of my go-tos for Web distraction:

Monday Punday - an illustrated pun posted every Monday
Crossword puzzles (I'm partial to Dictionary.com's.)
Sporcle - quizzes, trivia, and more

Aww subreddit - for animals being adorable (I would recommend Cute Overload but it looks like the site is dead. I was hoping they'd keep it up for archival purposes.)

Welcome to Night Vale - an NPR-style radio show from a fictional desert town with echoes of Lovecraft (sans the racism)
Radiolab - engrossing science stories
The Moth - people telling their stories in front of an audience

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
posted by xenization at 8:21 AM on October 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

How about Zooborns? This website is an aggregator that lists out all the baby animals currently being born and in what zoo. It has pictures and sometimes videos of the babies. You can search by animal type too and see specific species. There's usually some text too about how the babies are being cared for etc etc. I find it utterly adorable.
posted by FireFountain at 8:41 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like to go on Goodreads and see what people have said about some of my favorite books. I usually wind up remembering books I'd forgotten.
posted by BibiRose at 8:44 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I enjoy Buzzfeed, pleated-jeans, lifehacker, 22words, all good for a quick visit.
posted by theora55 at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about Zooniverse? It's a platform for people-powered research assisting professional researchers with things that require a lot of human eyes/perception. I really like the Cyclone Center, but there's a whole bunch of projects on there, in a number of different categories--anything from figuring out protein structures to transcribing century-old museum notes to watching jungle animal night-life across the world. It feels puzzle-like but is assisting the progress of knowledge, which I really enjoy.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

An excellent thing I discovered recently is Memrise , which is a Duolingo-ish tool for memorising things. As well as languages (lots more than Duolingo) it has courses for learning all kinds of interesting stuff, in that spaced repetition fashion which (I find) is quite entertaining.
posted by Lluvia at 11:39 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

For very short, funny reads:
Dear blank, please blank
Computer Stupidities (old but still funny)
They're the kinds of things that get funnier the more you read, at least for me.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:18 PM on October 10, 2016

Mention of Dear blank, please blank reminded me of some other sites I used to visit (so I can't vouch if they're still worth exploring):

F My Life
Texts from Last Night
Damn You Auto Correct!
posted by xenization at 3:20 PM on October 10, 2016

Response by poster: These are great! I'm not going to mark any "best" because my plan is to work through them all. :) If anybody has other ideas, feel free to keep sharing - especially games. I appreciate all this.
posted by forza at 4:14 PM on October 10, 2016

I just thought of another that I haven't visited in awhile but I always found fascinating- Letters of Note. It's a collection of famous or interesting letters. My favorites are the love letters but there's all sorts of stuff on there.
posted by FireFountain at 7:12 PM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

My version of this is my carefully curated tumblr feed. It's entirely pretty pictures of nature, pretty pictures of outer space, and Marvel Comics fandom stuff. If you follow enough people, there will constantly be new updates every time you look at your dashboard, and there are soooo many tumblrs out there that it's easy to find ones centered around what you're looking for. Come to think of it, I better find some good cute animal ones to add to mine...
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:25 PM on October 10, 2016

posted by ephemerae at 6:17 AM on October 11, 2016

Knowing myself and my desire to post on forums about things I am interested in, I do not find it useful to try to pick an entirely different activity. So instead of checking the election thread or reading Politico, I go to a forum where I post about tv shows.
posted by xyzzy at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2016

good news network

Reddit's "funny" subreddit gets me through my day.

slingshot ride reactions on YouTube is hella funny.

Good luck and I agree. If I see one more post/pic of the circus peanut and his opponent, I'm moving to Fiji without any modern technology. Let a hurricaine take me away.
posted by stormpooper at 1:07 PM on October 11, 2016

Showing my age...just watch hours of Homestar Runner!
posted by nosila at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2016

Remember the FPP a couple years ago about Mel's Hole, a bottomless hole in Eastern Washington that was reported by a caller on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell? (The linked site from the FPP is dead now, but the Internet Archive still has it online, if you want a sense of what you're in for.)

You can listen to five hours of vintage 1990s/2000s bottomless-hole conspiracy theory talk here: Part 1, Part 2.

I have at several hours of driving to do on election night, and I reallllly don't want to be listening to election returns all alone while driving. I plan on listening to this instead.
posted by compartment at 9:15 PM on November 4, 2016

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