When I celebrated the completion of my homework on a regular Friday night, I savored the pleasure it brought me to finally whip out my phone and go to YouTube. As I scrolled and tapped my way through various sections on the app (trending, new music, watch later to name a few) I came across the most peculiar video within my recommended. The video, titled, Study with Me || 14 Hour Study Day, immediately rose my eyebrows. Questions immediately filled my mind, ranging from “how does one have the patience to study that long?” to “is this actually real or is it a parody?” Typically, my eyes glaze over recommended videos, failing to take note of the absurd headings I may come across. This, however, was not the case. After I watched the video, from the channel of British YouTuber Ruby Granger, I knew that I had to find more about these self-proclaimed ‘study enthusiasts.’
Immediately after watching numerous videos from Ruby’s channel, I took note of her avid interest in Harry Potter, particularly the intellectual, quick-witted character Hermione Granger. From her channel, it could easily be observed that she found studying to be more of a hobby that she enjoyed for the sake of learning than a habit. At first, I found little fault with Ruby’s content. After all, a high-achieving student who encouraged others to be productive seemed harmless. Nevertheless, Ruby seemed a lot like your average teen: a soft-spoken girl who loved to read and hang out with her friends. My views became somewhat altered when I began to read her comments. Many of them were self-deprecating, even going as far as to say that Ruby would have been seen as the ideal child in the eyes of their parents. My heart began to ache, wondering how could a video creator who encouraged positive messages to her viewers inspire many of them to instead feel bad about themselves. The comments under Ruby Granger’s videos were starting to infuriate me, but I had to continue to expand my research.
I started off with Tumblr, one of the most commonly visited apps on my phone. As I typed ‘study’ into the search bar, I spotted multiple blogs with the same headers. Titles such as ‘Study Like Rory Gilmore,’ ‘Study Like Spencer’ and ‘Study Like Hermione’ instantly filled the screen alongside colorful coffee drinks and decorated MacBooks. Ruby Granger was definitely not the only one to look at the female heroine of Harry Potter as a study inspiration or ‘studyspo.’ I went back to Rory Gilmore. Luckily for me, I had watched Gilmore Girls, the beloved television series, so I knew who she was. The brainy, well-read daughter of Lorelai Gilmore was easily recognizable for me. As I thought about ‘Study Like Spencer’, I muddled at who the unfamiliar studyspo was. With a quick Google search, I determined that the blo
gs were referring to Spencer Hastings, a character in the hit television drama/book series Pretty Little Liars. Through some digging and reading of online character files, I came to the conclusion that Spencer Hastings, like Rory and Hermione, was an ambitious student with goals and drive. However, I discovered that Spencer Hastings’s character also suffered from drug addiction, particularly ADHD medications, amidst enduring the pressures of being an academic perfectionist who was constantly compared to her older sister, Melissa.
Prescription drug abuse amongst students, particularly Adderall, was not a foreign concept to me, let alone one to be glorified. Alternatives such as caffeine drinks and pills seemed to be relatively popular among the numerous study accounts I found. I sometimes drink coffee myself, but I found it quite strange that other blogs deemed regular caffeine intake as somewhat ‘desirable’ for the basic student. Enthralled, it also worried me how a community catered towards students achievement was actually promoting dangerous behavior.
This past year, a study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that 1 in 5 American college students has thought about suicide. This statistic is haunting yet real. To imagine thinking about what those numbers would be for high school as well as middle school students is frightening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 in 2016. To incorporate academic stress into dealing with mental illness is an inexplicable and mind-boggling challenge. In addition to everyday goals at school, the overwhelming pursuit of collegiate dreams places more stress than motivation on students as they grow older. The rose-colored lenses of the study enthusiast community finally cracked to reveal the horrible messages being sent to impressionable, young students.
Do not get me wrong, it’s a great thing to maintain good study habits. However, the videos depicting time-lapses of hours of homework sessions are not inspiring, but rather harmful. Mottos such as ‘Study Like (insert fictional character)’ and messages from study enthusiasts not only place an emphasis on being perfect, but they also add a detriment to one’s mental health; they construct negative self-images as one watches others work longer and harder than they do, leading to fear that their own efforts will be less than adequate.
So what can be done to conquer low, academic self-esteem? Destigmatizing the negative side of being a student is super important. As much as we would like it to be joyful and easy to balance, being a student deals with many unfavorable aspects. The more awareness raised about coping with mental health whilst being a student, the better the outcome will be. The obsession with maintaining high grades should never be the focal point of students’ lives. This means no more 10-hour study videos and especially no more messages to emulate students who are not real. Instead of idolizing fictional characters and ‘study enthusiasts’, encourage students to better themselves. No student is the same, thus no student learns exactly the same way. In fact, there are over 70 different learning style schemes, according to a 2004 report by the Learning and Skills Research Centre in London.
To be a better student involves finding more efficient ways to improve their personal learning, not spending absurd amounts of time attempting to retain information. More can be done to make sure that students better themselves in academics, but it simply starts with an individual approach.
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