Gromotka: Your studying is a lie and you know it


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It’s 11:46 p.m. Monday of finals week. I’ve just entered the Main Library. I’m first greeted by a wall of monitors, all tuned to Facebook newsfeeds. I make my way to the northeastern corner of the commons to get a clear view of the action. A nearby, dual-monitored computer is occupied by a student who has one screen set to some heavy-looking academic writing. The other is opened to a Pinterest page about tattoos. She scrolls through the latter for 15 minutes, occasionally struggling to decide if she wants a sip from her Starbucks cup, water bottle, or bottle of organic fruit juice. She moves her bag of Lifesavers and an empty salad box aside and turns to the academic text for all of 30 seconds before returning to the tattoos.

It’s the time of year when social networking is bombarded by stories of holiday cheer and studious anxiety. Any Facebook or Twitter feed will make that clear. We hear of hardship, fear, and exhaustion caused by the cliché notion of the “all-nighter.” But in my two hours spent observing student activity at the Main Library and IMU, I saw much of the opposite. Comfy clothes, countless snacks, continuous socializing, electronic recreation, and caffeinated drinks made for more of a kindly slumber party than a nightmarish experience. Finals week, it seems, has lost its grit.

The tattoo girl is later joined by her study buddy. He snacks on a bag of Ruffles before tapping her on the shoulder and joking, “C’mon, get to work.” The two scour Facebook for another 10 minutes and pose for a Snapchat picture as I decide to move elsewhere.

What really gets accomplished past midnight in the library? Are these the late-night study struggles we hear about? Yes, some students were hard at work. One sat alone at a desk with a notebook and textbook, quietly focusing — though he did take 10 minutes to rest his face in his hands and rub his temples. At the opposite corner of the room, I noted four students loudly chatting, laughing, and even howling for at least 20 minutes in one of the group workrooms. Another individual seemed to be accomplishing as much, slouched-over in his chair, asleep. In a newly renovated, state-of-the-art library, the most checked-out book is Facebook. It seems like a waste to leave the lights on.

There’s obvious merit in studying for finals; I’m not arguing against that. But what I saw wasn’t studying. I dropped in on a massive, hours-long bout of pampered recreation. I witnessed consumption on a grand scale. The same held true on all floors of the IMU. One student, munching on UISG-provided popcorn, sat with his feet up and watched a movie on his laptop for the entirety of my stay. It all seemed very relaxing, so why the façade of anxiety?

I’m sure that many, many people were getting it in gear and studying their hearts out on campus, but what I witnessed at the Main Library and IMU shouted otherwise. Those students weren’t suffering the real-life consequences of putting off work — the only reason anybody would ever have to spend all-night studying before a test. The entire finals experience is sugarcoated with free coffee, massage chairs, and even yoga. Why complain?

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