Today I had the opportunity to chaperone a field trip to the theater at my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island. Walking through the Fine Arts building, which holds oh-so-many memories for me, was pure nostalgia tinted with a hint of surrealism. It felt simultaneously familiar yet strangely new. I thought I saw my 20-year-old self as I negotiated the wide hallways–studying in a corner, reading an assigned novel curled up on a comfortable chair.
But as soon as I stepped off memory lane and looked at the actual students on campus, I noticed something quite new–study groups using laptops (with said laptops open to Facebook), not even looking at or talking to each other; cell phones everywhere, their owners furiously texting instead of reading the copious notes on which they’re about to be tested; students reading on tablets with all of the accompanying distractions.
And I thought about how just 23 short years ago, these distractions did not exist. Believe me, I’m grateful. I have no doubt that had Facebook, texting, and Netflix been part of my young-adult reality, I would have gotten substantially less done, and I truly don’t know where that would have led (or not led).
And this made me think about what the life of a college student is going to look like for my sons–who will enter college in 2022, 2024, and 2027. What will exist to distract them?
I can’t even begin to imagine.
But what I do know is that starting now I need to teach them how to tune out the distracting technology, to focus on the single task at hand, to prioritize academics over social networking, and to exhibit self-control amidst the chaos.
Oscar will land on a college campus in just ten years–and I find myself wondering if I’m going to have enough time to impart all of this.