DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

University can be a challenging feat. As one becomes bombarded with tests, quizzes, and exams, it is necessary to leave sufficient time to accomplish tasks and study in order to succeed. That, however, is almost always easier said than done. In such a busy and ever-moving society, distractions for university students seem more apparent than ever. Such distractions can lead to unhealthy fixations and sleep deprivation; a project that was assigned three weeks ago is now being desperately completed at 4:00 am due to Netflix’s highly-anticipated new episode of Black Mirror. A typical scenario for many university students. 

Such unhealthy fixations lead students to frantically work at the last minute and cram. Why do students put themselves through this torture? The answer lies in the multitude of distractions that students face. Social media, food, and parties are just a handful of distractions apparent across Canadian universities.

By far, social media are some of the most significant distractions that today’s students face and are responsible for many of the assignments completed at ungodly hours. The various applications and social media platforms available are hugely tempting opportunities to put down the pencil, pick up the phone, and browse through one’s timelines. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and YouTube are behind many students’ unhealthy fixations. 

The amount of time spent on social media is astonishing: studies from Eye-In Media have found that Canadian millennials spend approximately 3.2 hours per day on their mobile devices — that’s equivalent to dedicating almost one day each week to scrolling through social media. The plague of social media use is likely detrimental to university students’ abilities to focus and probably responsible for much of the work that has been crammed at the last minute. 

Social media does not only take time away from schoolwork. The platforms are also deeply linked to disrupted sleeping patterns. In a study published in Acta Paediatrica, Canadian students aged 11–20 revealed that increased social media use correlated with a greater likelihood of insufficient sleep. 

Between the high stress of being a student and the exhaustion from churning through assignments even as the sun comes up, students often resort to eating while studying, which leads to unhealthy snacking, binge-eating, and eating at unhealthy hours. These tend to exacerbate the problem, the second bag of chips and caffeinated beverage distracting from work.

But it doesn’t stop there. On top of social media usage and unhealthy eating habits, another significant part of university life that contributes to poor sleep and wasted study time is partying. In her article, “The Effects of Drinking on University Grades: Does Academic Motivation Play a Role?,” Jennifer Gilbert from the University of Waterloo explains that “researchers have found an association between heavy episodic student drinking and decreased academic achievement,” noting negative consequences such as interrupted study and the inability to perform daily tasks. 

Where partying is one of the most dynamic aspects of university life, it is also a huge distraction for many students. Beyond partying in itself, a multitude of behaviours and consequences, including heavy and frequent drinking followed by agonizing, stomach-wrenching hangovers, significantly affect students’ abilities to prioritize time for studies, maintain adequate sleep, and sustain overall academic achievement. When immersed in an endless stream of papers, quizzes, and tests, it is not surprising that students struggle to complete all tasks consistently and in a timely manner — and the distractions everywhere don’t help. Social media usage can prevent students from focusing on assignments, in favour of homepages and timelines; unhealthy snacking and binge-eating might encourage students to choose food over the task at hand; and partying and drinking significantly disrupts sleeping patterns and reduces the time that could be spent studying. 

While these distractions are important to understand, we must also remember that balance and prioritization are key to ending those study sessions before the sun arrives.

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