Doing it All. Or Maybe Not.

We’ve all been there: You’ve set up your books and notes in a peaceful study spot, and you’re about to dive into a productive study session when— ping!— there goes your phone. It’s a text from a friend, wondering about grabbing breakfast the next day or inviting you to an event. You type back a quick reply, and you are all ready to get down to business…after a scroll through Instagram, refreshing your email, browsing Facebook, etc. Before you know it, ten minutes have gone by, and while you’ve tagged three people in memes and caught up your Snapchat streaks, you’ve yet to make a dent in your mountain of work.

If you’re at all like me, that scenario probably made you cringe a little bit. Even as someone who considers themselves relatively unattached to their phone, I still struggle with digital distractions when I’m trying to get work done. The go-to piece of advice is to put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or airplane mode so you’re not distracted by buzzing and ping-ing, but even this is an imperfect solution. Because at the heart of our 24/7 need to be connected, I believe, is the anxiety of maintaining relationships in the 21st-century. I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of fearing I missed a text or didn't respond fast enough to a text about seeing a friend. Indeed, in today’s world of constant communication, I notice that I’ve started holding myself to the same standards as my cell phone— that is, to be on alert, always poised to receive and transmit.

Obviously, that’s a ridiculous expectation; I am (thankfully) not an iPhone, and cannot process information at anywhere near the same speed. Still, however, it’s a struggle to find a balance between my academic and my social lives. If a friend texts me in the middle of a work session looking to catch up, I’m always stuck between knowing that I should ignore it while also feeling guilty for not answering right away. The anxiety continues to build, and before long, even my sincerest efforts at studying are overwhelmed my mental tug-of-war. Most nights, I go to bed feeling either like an unproductive student or a bad friend, or both.

As college students, we all shoulder a unique combination of immense pressures. Two we all share, though, are the dueling demands of maintaining a strong school performance and building positive relationships. Now that so much of both our schoolwork and our personal communication can be found online, striking a balance between the two is more than deciding which nights to go out on and which to stay in for. As I navigate my way through my second semester of college, I’m left wondering…where is the equilibrium here? Does it even exist?

Maybe you can answer this for me: Do you struggle to juggle the demands of your textbook and that of your iMessages? If so, how do you (at least, try to) keep it together?