Exploring how students are feeling a year into distanced based learning, their mental health and struggles surrounding virtual learning.
Who would have thought that our beloved internet would become the enemy when we entered Zoom school? It sounds ideal at first: stay at home all day in a pair of sweats does sound like a perfect day for most of us, then having school canceled - yes, please give me more time. Unfortunately, the flip has happened; now, going on Zoom for a class is something students dread. Every day, students try to find new pockets of joy since they can’t see their friends, are stuck at home and feel Zoom fatigue.
What are the symptoms of zoom fatigue? Some symptoms include tiredness, worry, and burnout associated with overusing Zoom or other platforms of communication. Zoom and Zooming are part of our vocabulary, anxiety, lack of motivation, isolation, and inequity, which creates a mental health crisis.
I know I have felt exhausted and anxious after Zooming, and I never want to turn my camera on. I prefer asynchronous days instead. Many students feel that they do better when they do not have to have their cameras in a Zoom class. Most students prefer their work to be asynchronous. These students meet with their teachers during office hours for assistance. According to an anon survey on Instagram, some students took a gap year because they couldn't handle the lack of teaching mixed with their ADHD, making it hard to focus on the assignments. They felt that there was no off time, and had to be on their computer frequently, which is not an optimal learning situation for students with ADHD and anxiety, creating barriers. Often on zoom with back-to-back meetings all day, students feel less motivated to do their work and less excited to join their class and talk with their peers.
Zoom is now the primary platform for contact with family, friends, teachers, and classmates. Humans are social beings, and being isolated can have a substantial negative impact on mental health. Not communicating with people face-to-face makes it difficult to understand specific coursework and results in a mechanical classroom setting, making participation a dread. Many students have reported a rise in laziness and disconnection because of their constant computer exposure. They don't feel as motivated and are distracted because Zoom happens at home, and home life can be noisy and busy. However, in classrooms, the whole focus is on the class, so there are no outside distractions.
Zoom and online learning also have socioeconomic inequities for students who cannot afford a computer or have Wi-Fi. The alternative was public computers at libraries that are now closed due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is common not to consider these barriers in education. Some schools lend out laptops to their students, mostly for elementary, middle, and even high school, but not commonly for college students. College students already have a hard time paying for college tuition, room and board, and daily living expenses, and having a computer is another expense not readily available or afforded. Not every student can afford to live on campus, especially during the pandemic when there is a loss of jobs.
Mental health has an enemy in Zoom. Zoom negatively affects students' mental health and creates a greater struggle to navigate an education. Recently on a student Anon-Instagram survey, people shared their ideas on what can be changed:
These ideas aim to create a more student-friendly environment for students to prevent zoom fatigue and mental health. Pandemic, Zoom, Zooming, and mental health are creating a dangerous cocktail of despair. Let’s look at one another with empathy, tolerance, and an awareness of one’s privilege. Zoom is an enemy to mental health and can be treated effectively to minimize the symptoms and allow the individual to function in work, school, and social environments.
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Ryan Ford '23,