COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the world these past months, causing widespread hospitalization, death, job loss, and disrupting the education of millions of students across the planet. In our own community here at Berkeley High School (BHS), we observe the increased lethargy of students, and the teachers’ struggle to engage their pupils and keep their own spirits high as our nation’s politics drum up more issues than they solve. Many of my friends and I struggle to find motivation to work with any form of efficiency. Following the guidelines set to protect our community has its adverse effects: those of which lead to poor mental health. And, with seemingly no near end in sight, it is difficult to keep up any attempt at normalcy and order. I will be writing on various coping mechanisms BHS students are using to get through these difficult times.
During the pandemic, I have noted a significant increase in my time spent on social media. Apps such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Tumblr are experiencing a drastic increase in traffic, and we can clearly observe the impact and the cause in both ourselves and in our community. Studies have shown that having mobile devices in the same room during educational lessons or work drastically decreases the efficiency of the mind, particularly the minds of adolescents, which are extremely sensitive to phone stimulation. Without the in-person experience of learning, it is difficult to engage when there are millions of more interesting activities at the tap of a finger, just a foot away.
I was curious as to how my fellow students had been dealing with the same temptation. Upon further questioning the conclusion drawn is … they’re not. Teachers have found no way to monitor phone usage during class as they had with in-person learning. Without this obstacle, many students are on social media during lessons and consequently do not retain the material gone over in class. Grades have seen a harsh decline across the map, and we can only hope that colleges and universities will be taking into account the impact COVID-19 has had. The temptation of social media lies in the human need for social interaction. When we are left without in-person experiences, we turn to inadequate substitutes.
It must be noted that social media is not all bad. The majority of people I know use it as a creative outlet for making and sharing art. I myself have a blog and regularly share stories and art, which is helpful for relieving stress and anxiety. However, for most, the time spent online far exceeds the time spent creating content. Chatting with friends and seeing what people are up to is all fine and dandy, but when you are spending three or more hours a day watching TikToks, the damage far outweighs the benefit.
In my experience, I have found phone detoxing to be helpful when you feel out of control. My survey participants agreed that taking a break from their phone, even if it is only for a day, was beneficial to calming the mindset of “I can’t stop and now I’m behind on work and oh no the anxiety’s kicking in.” To conclude, it is important to use social media responsibly and to be able to recognize when you need to power off. Taking care of your mental health is crucial now more than ever, so finding a coping mechanism that is the least harmful is key to self care.