In the last couple of weeks I have found myself feeling quite surprised by the amount of time that mobile phones consume my – and many other of my peers’ – days. It is a problem and one that screams for society’s attention. I realised this as I was giving a presentation to my class at university. I observed that the majority of my peers were consumed by their phone (or laptop) screen during the presentation. This showed me the dire state of distraction we want to be in, even during the times we are there to learn. But is that the only problem?
Even though I was standing in front of the class for only a couple of minutes, I felt a feeling of uselessness as I stood there, speaking to a group of people who were engaged and distracted in their devices. While the teachers are confronted by this every single day, I could feel the impact of this problem.
Recently I heard one really honest educator voice that he didn’t know how to get our attention, to get us focussed and in tune with the teachings anymore. In response and from reaction, the ball was thrown back to the teacher by blaming him… that he didn’t make learning interesting enough.
Is it possible that our devices and screens are artificially stimulating us to the point that being in life, engaging with people and listening to a presentation seems ‘not interesting’?
What is more interesting than that is, as university students we seemed to be ignoring the material and teachings that will provide us with the very necessary professional skills that are required to be competent in the profession.
The skills in this particular structural engineering class were about resilience and were there to offer us the ability to ask critical questions about safety so that we could eventually be in service to humanity. Isn’t that the purpose of being at university: not keeping up with the latest cat memes on social media or the messages of our friends sitting in other classrooms who are equally distracted?
We seem to be seeking this constant distraction and stimulation, but why? Coming from my own experience, it is the reality of life we don’t want to face. Screens are the distraction from our responsibility to serve humanity, to be honest about the troubles we live with, the hurts we hold and the uncertainty of what we are going to do with our lives after university. Not knowing what our true purpose is, or being lost in the ideals of university that are put onto us by parents and others. The expectations are high in our age group; the university environment does not support the development of our whole being.
When we choose decency and respect in all our relationships we become aware of the effect our behaviours have on others, and that living in such a way develops true responsibility and true purpose.
Being able to observe all of this and learn from it is supporting me to see the distractions I seek, while also coming to terms with my own knowing of purpose. Letting myself be free to express the difficulties I face in university and life in general.
We are all amazing people learning the skills that we need to work in our chosen profession, and to truly connect with humanity, it is a waste of time to not be present.
By Benkt van Haastrecht, Architecture Student, Arnhem, the Netherlands