The rise in popularity around studying, exams, university life and general academia has created an obsession with a persona surrounding the aesthetic of learning. Alicia Lacey shares her thoughts on the problem of romanticising academia.
This romantic view of education has led to unrealistic expectations which includes the idea that we should be doing extensive hours of study and skipping social events to get those extra notes copied up before the next class. A notable example of this archetype in popular culture is Rory Gilmore from the TV show Gilmore Girls who can be quoted saying “Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?” which is used across social media in study motivation posts. This mindset can be all-consuming and problematic for several reasons; it produces an unnecessary hierarchy within academia, it creates pressure and anxiety surrounding learning and ultimately ignores the challenging realistic nature of academics.
Academia has always been regarded as a very prestigious, predominantly white, and wealthy sector for centuries which sets it apart from the typical population. These societal barriers to higher education should not go unrecognised when discussing the romanticism of academia as the fight for equality in this area is still a major issue brushed over by this community.
MANY PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE ACCESS OR OPPORTUNITY TO INDULGE IN EXPENSIVE TEXTBOOKS, TECHNOLOGY, OR FACILITIES TO MAKE THE STUDY EXPERIENCE LOOK A CERTAIN WAY – ACADEMIA IS HARD WORK AND COSTLY.
This idea of academia being purely aesthetic takes away from the gruelling work which goes into research, degrees and further education which reinforces the privileged hierarchy already in place, arguing that there is a right or better way to study compared to others.
As many readers will be aware, academia is stressful and can have a harmful impact on mental health. With constant reminders about how many hours of work you should do a day or whose notes are the prettiest, disguised as ‘study motivation’, it is no surprise that there are unrealistic expectations being formed. The notion that everyone should be romanticising education can make it a hostile and uninviting environment for those who may find academics challenging or anxiety inducing.
We should be acknowledging that everybody works at their own pace using various methods and romanticising academia media pushes a very specific type of learning. Typical attributes to a study video on TikTok or Instagram include expensive technology such as an iPad for note taking, a timer showing how many hours they have been non-stop working and a clear, safe environment (either at home or in a library). Several problems arise when academia is narrowly categorised in social media posts. This is because they exclude people who may not have the privilege to spend all day making notes or do not have a safe environment to study that again creates an anxiety-inducing atmosphere surrounding the community.
Ultimately, academia is difficult and should be recognised as such in the media. It unrealistically shapes a person’s identity to revolve solely around their education when they could have other commitments or events they want to take part in. Education and academia are not the most important things in life and an obsession with dedicating all your time to them could be preventing you from exploring other aspects of life. It is crucial to understand that there is a difference between an appreciation of academia and a segregating obsession.
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