Studyblr: The Aestheticization of Studying

Aestheticize, v. to depict as being pleasing or artistically beautiful; represent in an idealized or refined manner.

Motivational quotes in watercolor calligraphy, highlighters arranged artfully on a desk, bullet journal spreads filled with doodles and checked off to-dos—these are all trademarks of the studyblr, or a combination of the words "study" and the microblogging platform "Tumblr." In addition to the studyblr, the internet has seen the rise of even more aestheticized cousin, the studygram, or "study" and "Instagram." Both heavily emphasize the aestheticization of studying with neatly written notes, organized checklists, and a constant stream of positive quotes and reminders.

I ran a studyblr in 2014-15, which I've been maintaining on and off since then, although I rarely post original content anymore. Over the course of my time running the blog, I discovered a lot of ups and downs. My first complaint about studyblr culture is the expenses associated with it. Studyblr has a lot of emphasis on nice stationery, especially particular brands like Staedtler, Muji, and Zebra. Full admission, this is a picture of my pen case, and it didn't come cheap.

I own more stationery than that, by the way. That's not even the whole thing.

Do you have to actually own a double-digit amount of fineliners to be a good studier? Definitely not. Is anyone requiring you to do it? Nope. Do you have to do that to run a popular studyblr? Uh...let's just say celebrities probably don't wear a lot of drugstore lipstick. Do I regret spending that much money on stationery? No, although it wasn't exactly a wise choice financially. That's just my personal preference and I love making colorful notes, but to continue the metaphor, it also kind of feels bad when you try really hard on your makeup and Ariana Grande still looks way better than you with what appears to be zero effort.

But studyblr also has the same problem as a lot of other social media, which is that while it might make studying look good, it can make you feel bad. No one posts evidence of their 3 a.m. meltdown on social media, but plenty of people post the great time they're having at parties, their vacations to exotic locales, the fun hangouts they're having with their friends while you're just endlessly scrolling through Facebook because you're too tired to leave your dorm room.

Similarly, it feels bad when you get a C on a quiz and you know you deserved it because you studied for five minutes the night before, and then you get onto Tumblr to relax and someone posts the color-coordinated notes they just spent 3 hours on. Social media shows the good, edited side of people, and usually only that. And I've noticed when people do make attempts to post the "bad side," such as imperfect notes in messy handwriting or assignments they aren't proud of, this doesn't get as much attention. People don't want to feel bad nor do they want to share pictures that look bad on their blog.

Which is not to say studyblr doesn't have its perks! It's an incredible experience to be surrounded by people who support and validate your ambition, rather than looking down on you for wanting to try so hard. I don't regret my time in studyblr at all. It's really motivating to be surrounded by other people who are willing to work hard to achieve their goals.

Essentially, studyblr has great benefits, but much of it should be taken with a grain of salt. The study advice post telling you to rewrite your notes five times for maximum memory retention is probably not a good idea, because no one has the time to do that. The posts about gorgeous and heavy $30 planners that aren't fun to carry around are not wise financial choices, especially when you know you're just going to write your to-dos on your computer and be done with it. I cringe a bit when I see a studyblr photo of someone's notes where the stationery takes up more space than the actual notes.

Example (this comes close, but not quite):

So yes, it's nice to go scroll through some photos of nicely written notes, read a couple advice posts on a new way to study that you hadn't thought of, and find a few recommendations for especially good study software. But too much social media is probably not a good thing, as I learned from my time on studyblr.


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