Paying attention is is nearly impossible after a pandemic


Photo courtesy of Lismarie Pabon

Student on TikTok infront of laptop with MyCharger in browser.

The story is always the same.

I sit down in class and make the effort to pay attention for maybe 10 minutes. I take a couple of notes, and, suddenly, I end up searching phone cases on Amazon while the class content is easily forgotten.

I wasn’t always like this. Sure, the occasional procrastination attempt and slight distraction would plague me, perhaps most often during midterms or finals week, but after the pandemic hit, different social media platforms rose to popularity, and suddenly my focus was just on one thing––the internet. The countless hours of Zoom classes made me feel like I was listening to a podcast and didn’t need to be fully attentive anymore. Now, as a graduating senior with her first complete set of fully in-person classes in two years, I find myself struggling in the classroom as I never have before. My stress levels are through the roof, and I can’t seem to make the time to cope with it.

According to a study in the Journal of Community Psychology exploring the stress levels of college students after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been experiencing higher stress levels in relation to their academic performance after the pandemic. Students said that they were uncertain when normal in-person activities would resume and how remote learning was affecting the way they learned.

On March 9, 2020, all University of New Haven students received the first of many foreboding emails from President Steven Kaplan about the closure of campus for about 15 days. A week after that email was sent, another announcement rolled in that we would be learning fully remotely for the remainder of the semester. In the blink of an eye, my sophomore year felt finished and I had no clue what my next two years could look like.

I spent all my time that semester scrolling endlessly on TikTok, constantly on my phone, and it somehow feels like that’s all I still do. Communities on the internet flourished and bloomed with the use of social media applications like TikTok and Twitter, where conversations were facilitated in a time where no one could be face-to-face. We lived on the internet for months at a time, and to put it plainly, I became addicted to my phone.

According to my phone’s screen time statistics, I spent 4 hours and 20 minutes on TikTok on February 10, which is interesting, considering I have class on Thursdays.

In an article written by a social studies teacher examining the effects of smartphone usage in the classroom, it was found that grades inevitably decline, attention spans reduce and students don’t know how to get back on track.

On MyCharger, the Center for Learning Resources page says, “In person or online, the CLR is here to help you,” but somehow every time I find myself in the library or on the Navigate application to schedule an appointment, I can’t find the checkbox that encompasses what I need help with. I’m not looking for a tutor to help me with the material or to do math equations.

Needless to say, I just want to be able to pay attention again.