Over this weekend I was musing to my husband about my days studying for my final exams at high school. My high school years had prepared me reasonably well in terms of instilling study habits and an ability to just sit and concentrate, get away to a space that would ensure I wasn’t distracted etc. I’m not sure how well I would have done at school were I studying these days. Between Facebook and emails… and having the screen right there (“Well, I need it for webinars and the rest…”)… it’s no wonder ‘young people these days’ (and older people… and well, loads of us, I suspect) struggle to concentrate like we used to. With absolutely no solid evidence beyond anecdote to back up my claim (because I’m too lazy to go hunting for it right now!), I really do think my capacity to concentrate and put aside distractions is much more tested these days, and perhaps weaker than all those years ago when I ploughed my way through for those final exams. Granted, back then I had a mother lovingly cooking me dinner each night (thanks Mum!) and I wasn’t growing a baby (more protein?! Already?! We just ate…) but I’m not sure that’s a the whole story when it comes to my relative self-discipline.
As the run up to exams starts, there seems reason to give ourselves a bit of slack in terms of the other areas of life – the count down is on, some things will just have to wait until after exams, and keeping up with usual healthy habits seems all the harder; cooking something fresh, getting some exercise in each day etc. I’m already noticing these things slip a lot… and until a couple days ago, I was considering it par for the course – I know I’ll get back on track when exams are over etc etc. However, over the weekend, my own musings about my self-discipline in times gone by, and the below viral video on Facebook (ironically) kind of collided in my brain… a little like Kingdon’s three stream model of how policy windows open up, when the problem, the solution and the political will collide to create that ‘magic moment’ where some policy progress is made…
The video is a must watch – it’s the smartest and sharpest piece of poetry I’ve heard on the issue of how our ‘social’ networking is making us less social and more robotic than ever. It made me realise – how much of my ‘healthy living’ am I forfeiting under the guise that I just ‘didn’t have enough time’ because of study, when in fact if I think back, I found at least six ‘opportunities’ to check Facebook in one day?! Not just healthy living, but more to the point of the viral video, how much am I missing of the relationships around me (admittedly, hubby is travelling a lot and it’s often just me and the dog and baby-in-utero who now does back flips…but even the dog sometimes looks at me, “You love your computer more than me…” drooping his head and wincing slightly, with that look that makes me melt.
I don’t want to just scrape through exams (if I can!), I want to really learn, really retain what I’m learning – get that satisfaction I got back in Year 13 as I sat at Mum’s roller desk upstairs in their bedroom like a little hermit for several hours uninterrupted, day after day for weeks… the satisfaction of having studied well and feeling prepared. And I really want to feel that sense that there’s still space for those things that make for a healthy day – healthy eating, exercise, time to just be present to those in my life – even if exams are around the corner. In actual fact, I don’t have a leg to stand on in ‘cutting some slack’ on the rest of life during this exam period until I’m sure I’ve cut out those dangerous rather addictive things like Facebook in the middle of study time. Not to say it’s all bad, I love seeing photos of special moments in the lives of friends and family and sharing a joke or two…but it’s really the last thing I need to do each day and perhaps should quite literally be the last thing I do if at all.
As my Mum drilled into us as kids, “Do what you have to do before you do what you don’t have to do.” It was a lot easier then without Facebook and emails on every corner. But, damnit, it’s still so true…whatever it is that you find ‘sucks you in’…whether it’s Candy Crush (which I’ve never quite understood) or watching old YouTube clips of U2 and Bruce Springsteen playing together (which is what my husband is having me do right now and you can enjoy below!) or… having to bake cookies every time you get stumped on linear regression… or rearranging the pencils… name it, claim it, build a bullseye and write it in the middle and throw stuff at it each time you’re tempted to cut out 2/3rds of the way through a chapter for ‘just a minute’. See if there’s something else you can reward yourself with that doesn’t make you wonder where 20 minutes went by… not only will your studies be better for it, perhaps the rest of your life and relationships will be all the richer too.
Perhaps we need Facebookers Anonymous (or Candy Crush Anonymous…or Bruce Springsteen YouTube Clips Anonymous)…or just Procrastinators Anonymous (does that exist already?!). Rise up! We must REVOLT…against those silly little menacing things that so easily grab our attention…huzzah, let’s march forward in great fanfare for a future where our ‘social networking’ is under our thumb and not the other way round!
Lucy is studying the MSc Public Health by distance learning in Bangkok, Thailand. She is originally from New Zealand.