Pretty Productivity: The Dangers and Distractions of the Studyblr Community

New year, new semester, meaning a new section in my trusty bullet journal! A lot of people start the year by purchasing a new planner to keep track of their tasks -- I set up a new section in my bullet journal. This year, I prepared by searching up spreads I could try as well as inspiration on how to design my journal's plain pages. I ended up going down the rabbit hole of studyblr, studgram or any social media community focused on studying and ways to be productive, and soon found myself feeling more motivated to do my best in class.

 I mean -- who wouldn't be motivated to clean their room, do well academically, and get their life together with such pristine and productive pictures? Even better, studyblr bloggers and studgramers were sharing their tips and tricks on how to succeed as they have!

                                                                bullet journal Estée Janssens

Yet as I continued to prepare for class, finding the best way to take notes, the best apps to use, the best stationery to buy, I started going down another rabbit hole. One that made me fall victim to thinking I needed all these things to be able to study well and succeed.

And this isn't the first time I've fallen into this hole. Every year, every semester, and every new section in my bullet journal have led me down this studyblr hole. This always leaves me feeling materialistic and a fake when it comes to reaching my productivity goals. Fortunately, I am quite cheap and am able to stop myself before making pointless purchases, but surely I am not the only one that feels this way?

 I did some research and there are people calling out or at least criticizing the way accounts like studyblrs and studygrams idealize studying and productivity in a way that may not be the most economically, academically, and emotionally accessible.



*for the purpose of being concise, I will refer to all study-oriented social media as 'studyblr'

When you hang around the studyblr tags for a while, you start noticing a culture. Across accounts, there is a similar aesthetic and similar way to go about studying. Yet even more common are the go-to products studyblr bloggers often recommend. They aren't, however, the most cost-friendly recommendations. Some community 'holy grails' include Muji mechanical pencils that cost $10,  Leuchttrum journals for $20, and even a rough $1,100 for an Apple Macbook Air. 

Not everyone can afford these products and not everyone needs them to study. I know I couldn't. However, it's difficult to escape the impulse of buying these items when beautiful notes in calligraphy, written with these materials have practically become the face of the studyblr community.  Jane Song even wrote an article about how studyblr can be a distracting you rather than motivating you to work.


Photo courtesy of the author. I had a studyblr at one point but gave up after 3 months. I was putting more effort into making everything pretty rather than being productive.


When I try to climb back up from the study and productivity rabbit hole, I ask myself: "who even has the time to make aesthetically pleasing notes, study the course work thoroughly while preparing for the following weeks, take pictures for your blog, and all while maintaining a healthy social life?" Probably no one. Enter the discussion of mental health in the studyblr sphere.

In this sphere, you will often find people posting about their daily schedules. Many take rigorous honors classes, work, and volunteer for extracurriculars to strengthen their resume. Some schedules include long blocked off hours practically spanning half the day dedicated to homework and class preparation. The schedule repeats the following -- lather, rinse, repeat -- until you receive your coveted A+ or until your burnout. To summarize: this is the idealized form of a good study schedule yet it's sustainable. Some even call it unrealistic.

In Bonnie Wong's great article that tackles the same issues I see with studyblr, she notes how the community greatly promotes mental health, unwinding, and recovering from a burnout. Yet it seems like you have to get to the point of a burnout with all the tasks you've piled on yourself before you are able to unwind.

In Wong's article, there is mention of how actual studyblr bloggers feel about this. Some noted the pressure they feel to have neat notes, have Instagram-ready setup, study long hours, get a good grade, and post beautiful shots of your hard work on your social media.

In the end, despite its well-intentions, the studyblr community still plays the social media game of wanting to post your best life, or best study habits, online. Not everything is as it seems.


                                                                    computer hands writing in journal on table Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash


Nyle, you may ask, why does this matter? I don't browse studyblr tags -- I don't subscribe to this community! Perhaps, but you are a human who works and probably wants to be more efficient at work. There are methods and ways to boost your productivity, but I believe we should be tactical about which ones we choose and for what reasons. Is it for your actual goals? Or is it for the goal of looking accomplished, efficient, and productive -- even at the cost of your well-being?

Now, don't get me wrong --  I believe the studyblr community does just as much good to an individual as well. They practically got me through my SATs and senior year in high school!  Amidst all the highlighters and beautiful journals are a group of people who strive for self-improvement who are selfless enough to share their productive ways to others. There is a vibrant and supportive community willing to take you in and share in the joys and trials of being a student.

At the heart of wanting to be apart of this community is wanting self-improvement. Yet we should never lose sight of what truly allows up to improve ourselves. Everyone grows and works in their own way, and sometimes it isn't pretty or clear-cut.