The value of unplugging
Editorial: As featured in volume 111, issue 4 of The Collegian.
Think about the last time you saw an accurate clock on Bethel’s campus. The one in the Caf? Runs at least 5 minutes slow. Krehbiel Auditorium? Not even on the right hour. You won’t find one in the residence hall lobbies, around the Will Academic Center, or in the Fine Arts Center. This might not seem like a big deal, but is a microcosm of a larger issue at hand: the inability to unplug.
As a student who has at least four different communication apps that I’m required to use for various activities on campus (in addition to Google Suite apps), I am bombarded around the clock (ha!) with notifications and reminders regarding the millions of things I need to be doing to juggle my #BethelBusy agenda. I’m willing to bet it’s the same for other involved students, student athletes, and professors and staff.
These apps have made it impossible to maintain any kind of work/life/study balance. When a person is technically accessible 24/7, it establishes the expectation of being available 24/7. Notifications can pop up at any hour, re-stressing any kind of unfinished business. Just dismissing them isn’t enough; the sheer volume of unchecked Gmail alerts can build up anywhere from five to 25 emails, all demanding that you look at them immediately. With all of that pressure building up day after day over our eighteen-week semester, it’s no wonder that students and staff get burnt out.
This plugged-in mindset goes deeper than on the work and study level. Social media apps like BeReal, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok make it hard to focus with constant notifications. They are not only distracting, but harmful to students’ mental health. Maybe you’ve gotten FOMO (fear of missing out) from a poorly timed BeReal, showing you exactly what you don’t want to see. Maybe Instagram makes you jealous of others' looks, money or relationships. Or maybe Tik Tok makes you want to spend money at a rate no college student can sustain. Whatever the reason, social media gives you many opportunities to want a break.
I’ve had experience with all three aforementioned scenarios. All of those negative feelings, along with piles of work-related notifications, make me feel like a fresh chew toy dropped into the puppy pen. I’m getting torn up, pulled in a million directions, and now I feel like crap. All I want to do is drop my phone like a hot potato and go off the grid for a while.
But I can’t! Because I’ll have no idea what time it is. I’ll end up late to classes and meetings and convo, because there aren’t any clocks around campus.
But, Ally, you say: just buy a watch, and you’ll always know what time it is!
Okay, well, yes. Point taken.
However, I firmly believe this is an issue bigger than timekeeping. It has more to do with the sheer volume of devices today that are dinging and beeping for our attention. How can anybody get deeply immersed in whatever they’re doing, share a meaningful conversation with a friend or reach a meditative state in one’s own self when our attention spans are being reduced to shreds over all of the stuff we have to worry about?
I have no concrete answers on this front. It’s a societal problem, not just a personal or local one. But accurate clocks around campus are a good place to start.