23 votes

My college students are not ok

27 comments

  1. ducc
    Link
    I can speak to some of this from the perspective of a current college student. I began University during the beginning of the pandemic, and went through a year and a half or so of Zoom University....

    I can speak to some of this from the perspective of a current college student. I began University during the beginning of the pandemic, and went through a year and a half or so of Zoom University. As has been established, Zoom classes were extremely disengaging, and I barely ever paid attention during most classes. I personally managed to stay on top of things for the most part, but it was depressing and stressful, and I know many others who didn't do quite as well.

    Now, things are mostly back to normal. However, I have had many professors who have noticed the same thing the author here has - students performing worse, lower averages on exams, etc. Personally, going to in-person classes has helped me a lot - but I still feel fatigued. I'm on a quarter system (one quarter being over the summer, so it's really a trimester system), and the first two quarters were almost completely online. The third quarter, which we still have a few weeks left of, has been mostly back to normal. However, I feel like a lack of break between online classes and going back in person has left a lot of us without energy, and myself and a lot of others I know are really struggling right now. I don't know why, but we're just exhausted. Maybe things will be better after coming back from summer break.

    18 votes
  2. [21]
    papasquat
    Link
    This is part of a worrying trend I've noticed across society, not just in college, and it started before the pandemic. People just aren't mentally well. Maybe it's just my own vantage point from...

    This is part of a worrying trend I've noticed across society, not just in college, and it started before the pandemic. People just aren't mentally well. Maybe it's just my own vantage point from having my own personal struggles over the past few years, but it seems like society in general is just sort of spiraling. Most people I know have some form of depression, anxiety, bipolar, or some other sort of personality/mental health disorder. Everyone seems lonely and miserable most of the time except for brief spurts of mania which they post about on social media.

    I don't know what it is, but it didn't always seem like this, and it's not just immature coming of age angst on my part, I'm in my mid 30s, and things didn't seem nearly as bad 10 years ago. It just seems like people are checking out of society, not out of rebellion or rage, but out of pure exhaustion; most of their effort is spent merely keeping their own lives together, which leaves very little left over other than doing the absolute bare minimum.

    I can't really offer an explanation other than the usual suspects that get blamed for most of modern society's ills: rising income inequality, the prevalence of social media and all of the unhealthy patterns it encourages, widespread proliferation of porn at a very young age, online dating, anxiety about climate change, extreme polarization in politics, microplastics and other environmental contaminants, and yes, the pandemic, but as I said, most of these trends are things I started noticing beforehand as well.

    I don't know, but it really sucks.

    14 votes
    1. [3]
      balooga
      Link Parent
      I've also felt this, but I can't articulate it. I don't use social media so not sure what's going on in those spaces. Crime is on the rise where I live; the police department is losing officers...

      I've also felt this, but I can't articulate it. I don't use social media so not sure what's going on in those spaces. Crime is on the rise where I live; the police department is losing officers faster than it can replace them and criminals are getting more brazen.

      I can only speak for myself, but covid has been unspeakably demoralizing for me. Not just the disease, but humanity's collective response (if you can call it that) to it. I used to be optimistic about the future, about the accomplishments humans have made and the better life we're creating for ourselves. I used to take for granted the assumption that most people were generous and empathetic. Those attitudes were souring in me before covid but the pandemic was the last nail in their coffin. It's very hard to hang onto hope when circumstances have unmasked how widespread the ignorance, bigotry, are narcissism are. People I once thought were kind and intelligent are spouting off the most unhinged conspiracy theories. Cops are still abusing people. Livestreamed mass shootings are increasingly frequent. War continues, as heinous and barbaric as it's ever been. Microplastics are everywhere and climate change continues apace. Fascism is, perplexingly, on the rise everywhere.

      It feels like even when the problems are pointed out in giant capital letters, we as a species are unable to summon the will to do anything about them. And far, far too many of us are actively, intentionally, aggressively trying to sabotage meaningful progress. It's like we have a death wish.

      Meanwhile, the pandemic is not over, normality has not returned, and I'm legitimately furious that "everyone" seems to have their fingers in their ears about it. Double-vaxxed and boosted and more socially isolated than most, I still managed to get it after holding out as long as I could, a couple weeks ago. And I'm grappling with some serious dread now because, okay, I'm "not sick anymore." But for some reason I'm no longer able to breathe as deeply as I could a month ago. I get winded when I walk around the block. I'm still coughing. Covid is not done with me. I'm terrified to think what sort of lasting scarring it's left in my body. And this is only my first infection. What happens when I catch it again next year? How are these effects going to compound?

      Sorry for the digression but nobody is talking about it and it's freaking me out: it's like people only care if you survive getting covid once, and assume if you live through it that life carries on exactly as it did before infection, like a pass/fail grade. There is no conversation about the long-term societal impact of endemicity, or the personal toll it's going to take on all of us. I have an image in my mind of what life's going to look like in 20 years, and it's the majority of people struggling to breathe, smell, or taste anything because of all the tissue damage years of covid reinfections have wreaked on their bodies. And after seeing the depths of human dispassion of late, I expect everyone will just shrug and accept their new shitty quality of life and an average life expectancy of 65 of whatever. That's so bleak, I hope I'm wrong.

      16 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        We've become so utterly abstracted from the world around us that we feel helpless, and lack the tools to do better. I can't bring myself to knock on doors for causes because nobody wants to bother...

        It feels like even when the problems are pointed out in giant capital letters, we as a species are unable to summon the will to do anything about them. And far, far too many of us are actively, intentionally, aggressively trying to sabotage meaningful progress. It's like we have a death wish.

        We've become so utterly abstracted from the world around us that we feel helpless, and lack the tools to do better. I can't bring myself to knock on doors for causes because nobody wants to bother with a cause "because it's not going to accomplish anything anyhow". Which is kinda true, because we've had some of the largest protests in history over the last 20 years, yet progress is fewer and farther between.

        And you begin to believe that defeatist attitude, with a level of grounding in truth, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        Pair that with "Well, how do I keep my family housed and fed if I end up in jail?" and you've got a recipe for a population that doesn't want to rock the boat too much lest they fall off as well.

        6 votes
      2. acdw
        Link Parent
        I should have read this before my reply. you've said exactly what I was thinking, and far better.

        I should have read this before my reply. you've said exactly what I was thinking, and far better.

        2 votes
    2. [9]
      mtset
      Link Parent
      I'm curious why you call this out. I haven't seen much research around the impact of porn, in general, on mental health; if you know of some, I'd love to see it. Aside from that, I completely...

      widespread proliferation of porn at a very young age

      I'm curious why you call this out. I haven't seen much research around the impact of porn, in general, on mental health; if you know of some, I'd love to see it.

      Aside from that, I completely agree. The kids aren't okay because the world is burning down around us. It sucks!

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [2]
          mtset
          Link Parent
          I think all of this depends on how you define "porn". Do you mean any sexually suggestive content? Just images, or also /r/gonewildaudio? How about written erotica? How about novels which happen...

          I think all of this depends on how you define "porn". Do you mean any sexually suggestive content? Just images, or also /r/gonewildaudio? How about written erotica? How about novels which happen to include sexual content but aren't "about" sex? What about the Bible?

          Certainly, I think there's a large segment of mainstream, professional pornography that perpetuates a lot of harmful concepts around gender roles, sex, expectations in intimate relationships, etc. I just think it's worth being very clear about what we mean.

          Let's take an example. You say:

          If somehow you had no worries of them ever finding it through their phone, the internet, other kids showing them it - would you think it a good idea to introduce your young child to hardcore pornography?

          On the face of it - of course not! Gosh! That'd be child abuse! And yet - what is sex ed, if not talking to children about sex in explicit terms? So, we're back to defining "porn", in this case "hardcore porn". What's the definition of porn that doesn't include any of the things we'd like to let children have access to - art depicting naked forms, anatomy education, sex ed, medical information about AIDS, HPV, etc - but does exclude everything that would be harmful to children? There's a definition that does that, I'm sure, but I've yet to see anyone articulate it.

          Famously, in Jacobellis v. Ohio (378 U.S. 184), the Supreme Court was unable to define obscenity, with Justice Potter Stewart stating:

          I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case [The Lovers] is not that.

          This is a problem. When we talk about "porn", as a category, we simply cannot expect that our audience will have the same picture of what we're talking about as we do, without a preceding definition of terms.

          When we talk about porn damaging the youth, we're describing a real phenomenon, for sure - but we're also playing right into the talking points of the people imposing a record number of book bans in US schools, who call any book with LGBTQ+ representation in it "pornographic". Without specificity - beyond even the simple specifiers of "misogynistic porn", "violent porn", etc. - that term is basically totally meaningless.

          If you look at my comment history, you'll see me pushing back on the idea that porn is harmful in multiple comment threads. That's because I'm used to my existence, as a transgender person, being inherently sexualized. Even today, we see cases where content filters permit content about heterosexual couples but block content about homosexual relationships or relationships involving transgender people on the grounds that they are pornographic. When I hear "porn is bad", there's a nagging voice in the back of my head that says, "they might mean you."

          You say something really important in this comment.

          would you for example be fine with showing [your hypothetical child] the front page of PornHub? You can look at it right now, and then consider that whatever's there is going to be one of the first exposures a child has to the realm of human sexuality.

          This is absolutely right. The mainstream porn industry produces a lot of absolute fucking garbage. Of course, that's fine, and if people get off to that so be it, but we desperately need a shift to a society that places more of a value on authentic, vulnerable, and compassionate sexual entertainment. As long as we villainize sex workers and the associated industry in whole, rather than identifying the particular qualities and attributes that we find unsuitable for general distribution, we will have a step function instead of a gradient for the function of sexual exposure versus age (or ability to bypass age gates): you are unable to view anything sexual, and then you're able to be exposed to absolutely everything.

          So, your initial question is a good one.

          If you have children, are you going to voluntarily expose them to pornography, especially hardcore stuff?

          My mother taught me how to drink responsibly by offering me to small amounts of alcohol and letting me get accustomed to how it felt to consume it. Perhaps we should separate the "good" and "bad" kinds of porn out on a spectrum and protect people from the worst stuff more zealously than we protect them from the least objectionable - even, perhaps, after the age of majority.

          To be clear, though, it's an incredibly thorny topic. I don't think there's a good answer, especially because there are predators who will take advantage of children by grooming them using porn. I just don't think we can have a productive conversation about it if we start from the place of "porn is by and large bad and the exceptions are few and far between", and assuming we share a definition.

          14 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. mtset
              Link Parent
              Absolutely. But we do need to define that stuff eventually, because the only policy remedies for problems with porn are censorship. Censorship without extremely precise definitions is a very bad...

              For example, we're able to have conversations about racism without precisely defining who counts as white or black - which is impossible because it's subjective at the end of the day, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for us to have these conversations and for them to be productive.

              Absolutely. But we do need to define that stuff eventually, because the only policy remedies for problems with porn are censorship. Censorship without extremely precise definitions is a very bad idea.

              if it's a conversation about if porn is harmful or not, the context is usually clear that we aren't say, talking about naked statues and sex ed material/STI prevention.

              Yes. But it's not clear whether you mean, for example, movies with non-sexual LGBTQ+ representation, because there is a large contingent (at least in the US) who do use the word that way.

              3 votes
      2. [6]
        papasquat
        Link Parent
        You haven't seen much research around it because not a lot of research has been done into it. Anecdotally though, from speaking to male and female friends my age and younger, it's caused problems....

        You haven't seen much research around it because not a lot of research has been done into it. Anecdotally though, from speaking to male and female friends my age and younger, it's caused problems. I know of multiple relationships that have ended because of porn addiction/obsession. Female friends of mine have talked about how guys expect them to do things in bed that 10 years ago would have been really out there and niche, now it's an assumption that that's how sex is supposed to go. I've talked to men who are in otherwise happy relationships but lament that their partners don't look like the ones from porn. I have female friends who have done sex work on onlyfans a few years back to make extra cash because it seemed like everyone was doing it, but now regret that that content is out there forever. I've seen multiple people fired because they were looking at porn at work.

        I can't really speak to whether these things have caused mental health issues in the people I've talked to about it, but it has caused real world impact, and I can't help but think that if a lot of these people weren't habitually watching porn from a very young age, those problems wouldn't exist to the degree they do now.

        I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with creating or watching porn from a moral standpoint as long as the people involved consented to it (really consented to it, ie; weren't pressured by intimidation, social/economic pressure, and were fully informed about the nature of the content they're creating and the likelihood of its longevity).

        I do however think that exposure to it from a young age, and habitual, normalized use of it, along with the tropes common in it leaking into normal human sexual interactions are an overall harm to society though.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          mtset
          Link Parent
          This is a fun one because, well, do we apply the same standard to other work? I doubt most people working retail would do so if not coerced into it by "social/economic pressure" :) (To be clear, I...

          (really consented to it, ie; weren't pressured by intimidation, social/economic pressure, and were fully informed about the nature of the content they're creating and the likelihood of its longevity).

          This is a fun one because, well, do we apply the same standard to other work? I doubt most people working retail would do so if not coerced into it by "social/economic pressure" :) (To be clear, I think we should apply this standard everywhere; I'm an anarchist for that reason.)

          But, yeah, you're largely right; I'm mostly concerned with defining what we mean by harmful porn (see my other comment in this thread).

          7 votes
          1. [2]
            papasquat
            Link Parent
            There’s something to be said about the idea that sex, for many people is uniquely personal and vulnerable in a way that other physical activities aren’t. While someone being forced by economic...

            There’s something to be said about the idea that sex, for many people is uniquely personal and vulnerable in a way that other physical activities aren’t.
            While someone being forced by economic realities into a job they don’t enjoy definitely isn’t ideal, someone being forced into sex work specifically will be uniquely dehumanizing for many people. After all, there’s a reason why society treats sexual and non sexual assault differently.

            6 votes
            1. mtset
              Link Parent
              True! I think that's a solid argument.

              True! I think that's a solid argument.

              1 vote
        2. [2]
          vord
          Link Parent
          This is the #1 thing everyone forgets about the internet. Everything you say and do can potentially be archived forever.

          I have female friends who have done sex work on onlyfans a few years back to make extra cash because it seemed like everyone was doing it, but now regret that that content is out there forever

          This is the #1 thing everyone forgets about the internet. Everything you say and do can potentially be archived forever.

          2 votes
          1. MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            Cawthorn is a great example of that. I do wonder what the next generation of politicians are going to do about their social media history. Honestly, I'm not sure I could trust someone with a...

            Cawthorn is a great example of that. I do wonder what the next generation of politicians are going to do about their social media history. Honestly, I'm not sure I could trust someone with a flawlessly perfect teenage/young adult social media history, but ymmv.

            3 votes
    3. [4]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      IMHO it’s workplace expectations. I don’t have much real evidence but I have anecdotes in spades. You’ve probably heard of many stories about US worker productivity going up and how work is...

      IMHO it’s workplace expectations. I don’t have much real evidence but I have anecdotes in spades. You’ve probably heard of many stories about US worker productivity going up and how work is seeping into private lives with the rise of apps and smartphones. And coincidentally there are no minimum PTO requirements (as in forcing you to take time off) to help people force themselves to reset.

      Another fine anecdote is how the Nazi ground corps ended up being so effective. They could move faster than any other on foot forces could. You know how they managed it? Drugs - they pumped them full of amphetamines. How many people at your work are self-described coffee addicts? If not coffee, how about caffeinated sodas? Nicotine in cigarettes is also a stimulant.

      I know there are probably more reasons than this, but that is what I am feeling personally right now. I am falling asleep at lunchtime at work because I can’t sleep at night because I am not getting enough done. I am so exhausted.

      6 votes
      1. papasquat
        Link Parent
        It's certainly a factor. I can identify with what you're feeling myself as well. In my case it's not even so much workload is it is poor management. I work for a massive company, and I know that...

        It's certainly a factor. I can identify with what you're feeling myself as well. In my case it's not even so much workload is it is poor management. I work for a massive company, and I know that there are things that need to get done, but I don't know how to do them. Knowledge management is an absolute disaster at my organization, and most people desperately try to grasp what the current situation and next steps on any project are by blasting out an absolute ton of meetings and emails, so most peoples' jobs just becomes sitting in meetings and reading/writing emails.

        It's a pretty soul crushing way of working, and when all you're doing is collaborating, you're not actually getting any sense of fulfillment by actually creating things or helping people. I've learned this is a pretty common occurrence at large organizations. Maybe that's not exactly what you're going through, but I know I've used caffeine and prescribed amphetamines as crutches trying to desperately stay engaged.
        Just my myopic limited view of things from my own little foxhole.

        I hope your workload starts lightening up soon or you're able to move to a job that doesn't leave you so drained. That sounds like a pretty awful thing to have to deal with.

        5 votes
      2. [2]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Can you quit? I’ve never worked somewhere where people live like this. It’s absolutely possible to avoid this kind of work culture.

        Can you quit? I’ve never worked somewhere where people live like this. It’s absolutely possible to avoid this kind of work culture.

        2 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          Yes and no. Honestly there are some personal issues I'm going through that are making things worse for me than they aught to be including some that may be health related, but I'd rather not go...

          Yes and no. Honestly there are some personal issues I'm going through that are making things worse for me than they aught to be including some that may be health related, but I'd rather not go over them here.

          Beyond that, the stuff I'm talking about is a mentality you can find just about everywhere in the US. It wouldn't do me much good to change workplaces if that were all I were looking to avoid.

          2 votes
    4. [4]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      I think the reason why these are commonly blamed is simple: they're exactly the reasons behind our collective depression. however, no one is interested in fixing them.

      usual suspects that get blamed for most of modern society's ills: [...]

      I think the reason why these are commonly blamed is simple: they're exactly the reasons behind our collective depression. however, no one is interested in fixing them.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        mtset
        Link Parent
        Well, lots of people are interested in fixing them, but few of those people have money or power.

        Well, lots of people are interested in fixing them, but few of those people have money or power.

        2 votes
        1. EgoEimi
          Link Parent
          I think that is not necessarily true. I find that we are both the perpetrators and victims of our system. Looking at my circle, they're the kinds of people who both perpetuate and are victimized...

          I think that is not necessarily true. I find that we are both the perpetrators and victims of our system.

          Looking at my circle, they're the kinds of people who both perpetuate and are victimized by the system: highly educated, ambitious go-getters. They complain of burnout, the rat race, and office politics — but they also judge and demand a lot of others. They want relaxation and peace of mind, they want their vacations to Puerto Vallarta and Mykonos, so they need ways to pay for them. They are the future managers, directors, and CEOs.

          They are the ones keep the hamster wheel spinning and ever faster too.

          3 votes
        2. acdw
          Link Parent
          sadly, you're right. I keep thinking about The Second Coming... seems weirdly prescient

          sadly, you're right. I keep thinking about The Second Coming... seems weirdly prescient

          1 vote
  3. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    I only partially agree with the author here. I agree in that I don't think that education standards should be changed. But we also need to encourage students to take time off and return once they...

    I only partially agree with the author here.

    I agree in that I don't think that education standards should be changed. But we also need to encourage students to take time off and return once they have the energy necessary to get a degree. Schools should make the process easy and allow students to maintain the credits and financial aid they've earned thus far. America does not make it easy to break the normal high school -> college -> employment pipeline but we need to in this case.

    13 votes
  4. [3]
    vegai
    (edited )
    Link
    Here's an interesting possibly counterpoint to how most of us here probably think: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/lisa-miller-654/ Her claim is (in a very tight nutshell of my making) that we...

    Here's an interesting possibly counterpoint to how most of us here probably think: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/lisa-miller-654/

    Her claim is (in a very tight nutshell of my making) that we have lost something significant when we've moved on from spirituality without replacing it with anything, and young people are the worst victims of that loss.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      post_below
      Link Parent
      I didn't listen to the podcast but I think your summary points to a big part of the problem. Meaning, belonging and identity are a huge part of mental health. Religion provides all of these, in an...
      • Exemplary

      I didn't listen to the podcast but I think your summary points to a big part of the problem.

      Meaning, belonging and identity are a huge part of mental health. Religion provides all of these, in an easily accessible form.

      In western society meaning has become more and more tied up with capitalism. Comparison, things, image. Social media doesn't help. We know empirically that those sources of meaning and identity don't lead to genuine happiness or fulfillment.

      At the same time the buffer provided by community seems to be harder to come by for many in the modern world.

      I'm definitely not suggesting that magical thinking is the answer, but I think we do need to give real collective thought to what we replace it with. Science has a role to play. The better we understand what makes us feel good about life, what the groundwork for mental health looks like, the better we'll be equipped to build value systems which get people there.

      The natural world is important. We're more disconnected from it than we've ever been, while at the same time we have a rapidly growing body of evidence that being in it is extremely valuable for mental health.

      There's also a lot of value in concepts you find in many traditional indigenous worldviews, such as gratitude and interconnectedness.

      We're raising people in an environment from which they're absorbing values that leave them feeling disconnected, with no framework for building a sense of meaning and purpose.

      9 votes
      1. mtset
        Link Parent
        This is one of the reasons that, despite everything negative about it, I'm deeply grateful that I'm undeniably, unmaskably queer. The LGBTQ community is far from perfect but it's a unifying force...

        This is one of the reasons that, despite everything negative about it, I'm deeply grateful that I'm undeniably, unmaskably queer. The LGBTQ community is far from perfect but it's a unifying force that brings together a lot of very compassionate people.

        5 votes