Technology as a From of Procrastination and How College Students Depend on Technology Differently
I have been sitting at my desk for five hours. Trying to write this essay. I have started essays on three different topics, cried, called my mom, and sent multiple snapchats telling my friends about my struggles with this essay. Initially I intended to energetically sit down and crank out this research paper on a topic of interest. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet. The reason why? Technology. The Internet. Social media. My cell-phone. The main problem lies in the fact that I am writing this essay on my laptop, which allows me to access the Internet. By Internet I am referring to Facebook, Gmail, the Martha Cook Dining Menu, the LSA Course guide, and the quiz I just took, telling me what I should write a research paper on, based off of my personality results. Clearly procrastination has gotten the best of me, which is fairly interesting considering prior to this semester I never waited so long to compose an essay, let alone had such difficulty trying to choose a topic.
Then it hit me – why not write about procrastination? Procrastination happens to all of us. Realizing this, I’m curious to answer the question: how does technology affect procrastination? There are many different forms of procrastination, and I aim to focus on the form of technology as a procrastination platform. I believe that college students are negatively affected by technology as it provides them with ample opportunities to procrastinate, which leads to unwanted effects brought on by procrastination. Procrastination as a result of technology use demonstrates only one of the negative ways in which technology has transformed our society, and if technology usage does not change, soon it will be negatively impacting more than just a few aspects of our lives. While there have been essays written before about procrastination, through my research I began to make the connection that there are different types of procrastinators, and these procrastinators use technology differently.
To start, it is important to note exactly what procrastination means. The online Webster Dictionary defines to procrastinate as “to put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness; to postpone or delay needlessly.” Thus, this definition focuses on a lack of motivation, which leads one to delay work that has a deadline. Currently, writing this essay can be an example of procrastination – I waited until Friday to start writing it, four days before the due date. Why? I had a biology exam – three days beforehand. This form of procrastination falls under putting something off due to laziness. While it may feel hard to look at one’s faults, in this essay I am going to analyze how technology affects procrastination, and break down my own procrastination habits in order to learn how to change my ways. To do this one must understand why college students procrastinate.
On average, “Three out of four college students consider themselves procrastinators,” according to a study performed by Napa Valley Register. Why do so many college students put off doing work until the last minute? In an essay titled, “Procrastination or ‘Intentional Delay’”, Amy Novotney analyzes the relationship between the delaying of work and procrastination. Quoted in Novotney’s article, Doctor Timothy A. Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University, describes that the main cause of procrastination is “self-doubt”, due to the fact that “[students] are always being pushed out of [their] depths.” Basically, when faced with a new stressor and put under pressure, Pychyl implies that this actually causes students to wait longer to conduct work, instead of starting it early to try and create the best work possible. If a student assumes or fears that they will receive a bad grade on a project, they automatically do not feel as though the project is as worthy of their time, so why start working on it early? Self-doubt sets students up for failure in this sense, because if students delay the work, they most likely will not receive the highest grades, which in turn will put them back on a cycle of self-doubt.
Self-doubt is not the only reason students procrastinate though. In a research paper titled, “Doing the things we do: A grounded theory of academic procrastination”, written by Gregory Schraw, results of a procrastination study in which Schraw predicted reasons for procrastination are summarized. Among his reasons are lack of time, concentrated late efforts, adrenaline need, planning ahead, lower expectations, and the chance to receive a grade closer to the date of turn in. Students believed that if they procrastinated, the amount of adrenaline they would have nearing the due date would allow the students to complete assignments in concentrated periods of hard work. They intentionally put off doing work in order to face the stresses and pressures of a nearing due date, even though they would lower their expectations, in order to turn their assignment in and receive quicker feedback than they would have if they turned the assignment in earlier. This leads me to point out that the difference between someone who self-defines themselves as a procrastinator and plans to procrastinate, versus someone such as myself who has the right intentions, but unknowingly sets themselves up to procrastinate. It’s the difference between purposeful delay, and lack of motivation, which I will discuss later on in this essay.
I asked a few of my friends to answer some questions about procrastination. Out of the six friends that I interviewed, 100% of them said they procrastinate. I found this to be really interesting, seeing as how before I had so much free time; I never felt the need to procrastinate myself. The next question I asked my friends was about why they procrastinate. One responded, “For some reason, I can not get myself to get my work done, and get it done to the best of my ability, until I am under the pressure that there is no time left and that it must be completed at that moment.” Her response directly correlates with the research performed by Schraw, stating that students believe they will perform better under pressure. Two other responses included, “my homework is just too daunting to start,” and “I wish I did not procrastinate.” The fact that students wish they did not procrastinate, but yet put off doing homework due to its enormity is becoming a more noticeable phenomenon to me in college. It’s sad that at one of the best universities in America, students are already burnt out by their sophomore year, so much so they do anything they can to put off having to do more work. When asked, the people I interviewed said that to avoid working they read, watch TV, go on Facebook, sleep, eat, and use technology in general. These are all ways students procrastinate, and when they are more prevalent in students’ lives they can be means of escape, which are becoming too frequently used.
When college students are not studying or doing homework, they spend their time going out, playing sports, and in recent years, there has been an increase in how long they spend on the Internet. In a study performed by sociology professor, Steven Brint from the University of California, Brint learned that “students on average dedicate 41 hours per week to social and leisure activities, allocating only 28 hours to academics. 10.7 of the 41 hours, according to the study, are spent on non-academic computer usage.” A little less than half of the time students spend on their homework; they spend on the Internet each week. In today’s world, we surround ourselves with technology. We have computers, televisions, radios, and cell phones, all of which connect us to other people and events happening in the world today. When trying to write a paper it is extremely easy to get caught up in technology, because it is nearly impossible to avoid it… and technology offers a fun distraction. Homework does not.
There have been many studies done that prove when students have access to the Internet they are less productive with their work. For example, right now I have 10 tabs open in Safari on my computer, and while they are all on the subject of procrastination, when I click between the tabs I feel the need to also check Facebook, and my email, even if I checked just a few minutes before. In today’s society we are compulsive clickers and Internet addicts. In a study performed by the Journal of Information Systems Education group, researchers found that in class when students are taking notes on their laptops they have distracting windows such as games, email, and other web surfing windows open 42% of the time, thus leading to less productivity in class. College students are expected to type their assignments in order to have well-organized and neat papers. Doing work on a computer can easily lead to distractions though leading to increased procrastination, lower grades, lower levels of self-esteem, and greater lacks of motivation. Below David Bunzel, who writes for Digital Media, summarizes how college students spend their time on the Internet.
While it may seem that there should be preventative measures in order to decrease technology use, there are those who believe that classrooms should continue encouraging college students to use technology. The National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology believes that technology such as computers and laptops “can help [students] find the resources to more easily pay tuition and register for classes. Additionally, many college students said technology could help them be more productive and allow them to feel connected to their academic communities.” Used properly, technology and its ability to connect to the Internet provide college students a really useful way to connect to others, find research and complete tasks for classes. Unfortunately, it is not guaranteed that students will properly use technology for their class work as well, meaning that it is a tool to be used to access the internet for projects, but while working on assignments or taking notes in class, it is very hard to limit students’ access to the Internet, which in turn increases their ability to successfully procrastinate.
Up to this point I have shown that the easy access college students have to technology greatly decreases their productivity, and increases their likelihood to procrastinate. Technology is not the reason why students procrastinate, but web surfing, texting, etc. are forms of procrastination that consume large portions of time in the average college student’s life. Lowered grades and assignments building up can be huge stressors in students’ lives, which are already stressful enough without procrastination. When procrastination increases due to endless distractions, it can have a negative effect on college students’ health.
Of course there will be differences in the health effects of procrastination in students who plan to delay their work and those who delay the work without a purpose for delaying it. From the same study performed by Schraw, he noted that some students actually preferred procrastinating because it, “relieved boredom, increased work efficiency, and enabled students to ‘have a life you can not have if you study all the time’.” Procrastination does relieve boredom – the activities performed while procrastinating are performed because they bring joy to the student, whereas the project they are working on may not. But relieved boredom should not weigh more heavily than one’s desire to receive good grades, and procrastinating by means of technology can actually have negative effects on health. In his study, Schraw concluded that, “all students experienced fatigue, stress, guilt, and anxiety resulting from procrastination.” Combine this with the effects that technology and continuous Internet use, and college students are setting themselves up for an extremely stressful lifestyle.
Mental problems? Physical problems? College students whom spend hours working at their computers and looking down at their phones while working on assignments or surfing the internet welcome both into their lives. A very common form of procrastination is to surf the internet, and as the desire the spend more time delaying work increases, so will the amount of time a student spends on their phone or computer. Hunched over, looking at bright screens for hours on end, stress eating as a result of the pressure from upcoming deadlines, college students may as well be zombies. According to the Internet website, Psych Guides, online addictions are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. An article on the website, “Computer/Internet Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects”, lists off some of the mental symptoms of prolonged Internet activity: feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, dishonesty, no sense of time, isolation, defensiveness and the avoidance of work. The physical effects on a college student’s body from being on a computer far longer than necessary include: backache, headaches, weight gain or loss, disturbances in sleep, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blurred or strained vision. Working for short time periods and taking breaks is strongly encouraged so that one will not feel such strong effects from spending too much time on the Internet. This contradicts the idea of procrastination: delay, and then work on a project for a longer, concentrated period of time in a very short span of a few days. This means that college students will spend more time on their computers trying to get work done, becoming distracted, and then trying to make up for the lost time. They will be spending more time becoming unhealthy. If technology usage continues to increase, how will this affect our society and young adults?
Upon traveling on this long struggle of finding an essay topic interesting enough to me to write about, I figured that it would be important to look at how this procrastination has affected me. I have to say, the Psych Guides article was extremely accurate. In the past three days I have probably spent a total of 20 hours working on my computer. When I get tired of typing, or am at a loss for words, I find myself going on the Internet to endlessly scroll through posts I have already seen. I go on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook… all of them, hoping for some sort of notification that will remind me that I have friends, and allow me to feel momentarily satisfied by connecting with other people. It can sometimes be up to 30 minutes that I spend on the Internet by the time I remember I have a paper to write, at which point I have lost my train of thought and continue to struggle for even longer trying to remember what to say. I sit cross-legged at my desk either leaning forward to type with my back hunched, or with my computer on my lap. Sometimes I lie down and type, with my computer resting on my knees. Knee pain, lower back pain, and tightness in my neck are all physical effects I feel from working on this paper. In addition, I have been working on two other papers at the same time, and I am definitely feeling the effects of overworking my fingers, as they are starting to feel slightly numb. The corner of my right eye is turning red, I think from straining too much to look at the computer screen… I can feel that my eyes are heavier than usual.
As for how I feel mentally, I would say not very good. I’m extremely stressed out due to the fact that as soon as I finish this paper tonight (Sunday), I am going to start a new paper that also has to be 8 pages long to turn in by Thursday. I’m letting my stress impact how I’m talking with others, and I feel as though I’m harsher. Even though I find that I am going to websites to distract myself, as soon as someone starts talking with me I feel even more stressed out, and respond in annoyance. It is not healthy to be on the computer for this long. It does not feel good to procrastinate.
Simply put, unless college students begin to realize the negative impacts of procrastination and combined increased Internet usage, relationships will falter, health will decline, and productivity will decrease. Having a few days where one might not feel up to par due to some of the physical and mental effects of procrastination is fine, but technology usage is not going to remain at this level forever. More businesses, colleges, and family residencies are relying heavily on technology. Americans are workaholics, and with technology usage becoming more prevalent there are going to be many negative impacts felt. An increase in technology use in the workplace, especially for young students who are still learning how to focus their attention, will allow more opportunities for procrastination. This leads to stress, declines in expectations, and lower qualities of work. Some of the symptoms of prolonged Internet activity were anxiety, depression and dishonesty. If college students spend more time online, they start harming relationships with those around them if they begin to act differently due to their dependence on technology, highlighted by a lack of desire to do work. This can be seen in all aspects of life – relationships will change as results of negative health impacts of too much technology, which in turn can ruin productivity. Internet procrastination by college students needs to change, or else the negative habits students develop in college could potentially harm their chances of being successful in the workplace.
So, what can we do as American college students to try and curve the procrastination trend and avoid long-term affects caused by too much technology use? The simple solution seems to be to start projects early and limit technology use as much as possible. In the book, Treatment of Academic Procrastination in College Students in Procrastination and Task Avoidance: Theory, Research and Treatment, the authors write some suggestions as to how college students can be better prepared for assignments. These suggestions include: make lists of everything one has to do, write a personal intention statement, set realistic goals, break down the work, give yourself double the time to complete an assignment, and reward yourself when you can cross something off of your list (Ferrari, Johnson and McCown, 163-207). These suggestions will help increase productivity, which in turn should decrease the need for college students to turn to technology use. As for how to limit technology and internet use, students should use precautionary measures such as turning their cell phones off while doing homework, and moving the cell phone far away so that it will not be tempting to look at it. In addition, if a student working on their computer does not need to conduct any further research and use the Internet, they can actually possible to turn the Wi-Fi off, which should be done to avoid the temptation. If a student tries to go on the Internet with the Wi-Fi turned off, they should become frustrated and refocus themselves on the project at hand. It is also extremely important to take mental and physical health breaks. College students should take short breaks to walk around, eat, or talk with friends to give themselves little rewards as they finish small tasks. If we can recognize the negative effects that addictive technology use can have on our minds and bodies, we should be able to beat the addictions, beat the lack of motivation to do great, productive work and then have more time to reward ourselves in the end. This procedure will be applicable at any stage in life, and I know that upon conducting this research I am going to change my study habits. I cannot allow my health to pursue in this state due to my carelessness.
Nearing the end of my essay, it is important for me to acknowledge what I have discovered through my research and experience with procrastination that I did not learn through other resources. At the beginning of my paper, I stated that there are different kinds of procrastinators and that technology usage changes upon what type of procrastinator is procrastinating. As I surveyed my friends and performed my research, it seemed to me that there are specifically two kinds of procrastinators: those who excel by forgetting about work until a short time period before it is due, and those who sincerely want to get the work done, but find it almost physically and mentally impossible to actually begin working. Then, there are people in between. Sometimes they are procrastinators; sometimes they are on top of their assignments. During the time I spent writing this paper, I observed my friends and their study habits when we were working in the same room together. Some of my friends are the types of procrastinators who will do anything to distract themselves from their assignments, waiting for the pressure to bear down on them. Others (such as myself) will sit on their computers for hours, staring at a blank Word document, or CTools questions that have yet to be answered. What is the difference in how we spend this time not doing work?
Interestingly enough, my friends who crave the stress of nearing deadlines spend their time in less engaging, but more time consuming activities. By that I mean they like to sit back and listen to or watch something mindlessly. One of my friends frequently does her homework while watching television, or doesn’t do her homework at all until her show is over. This is also a common trend with the popular movie and TV show website, Netflix. Thus, I started to make the connection that college students who plan to procrastinate engage in forms of technology use that do not require much work, but can fulfill long periods of time, like watching a movie or a music video on YouTube. Planned procrastinators need to have multiple distractions, so that they can actually get to the point of feeling as though everything is bearing down on them, which is why it makes sense that people who plan to procrastinate purposely seek out other ways to distract themselves, while other types of students who fall victim to procrastination have technology easily accessible.
Continuing off of this observation, the college students I observed who were trying but failing to get work done, always were working on their computers. As mentioned before, when students have access to the Internet when trying to accomplish a task on their computer, they are much less successful because they tend to go to other websites, instead of the ones they need to be using for their assignments. While some friends of mine were watching TV, my friends (including myself) had our computers open with the intentions of getting work done, but in most cases this led to surfing the Internet. Convenient technology creates easy ways for non-intentional procrastinators to become distracted, and lose track of the task at hand. It seemed to me that college students who don’t plan to procrastinate end up going to social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter, almost as though they are not aware of what they are doing. These convenient social media outlets provide quick distractions, which can buildup over the course of a few hours of trying to complete an assignment.
In terms of the effects of technology use on different types of procrastinators, it is more healthy to plan to procrastinate and purposefully delay work, instead of finding oneself becoming distracted, and then frustrated due to the lack of work that was completed. Aforementioned students who intentionally delay work feel greater senses of relief once they turn an assignment in, whereas when technology devices overwhelm students trying to complete work the effects can be more detrimental on their mental, and physical health, due to the fact that this amount of stress was unintentional. Why is this important? It is important because college students need to recognize the signs of procrastination before the effects become too much to handle. Do they want to put off the work? Or would it be better to log out off all social media? Procrastination doesn’t have to be a bad thing, although before I began this essay I thought it was. I didn’t realize that people who intentionally delay their work could actually be better off mentally than those of us who try but fail to complete work early or on time. This was an important lesson for me to learn – to be able to differentiate between the different types of procrastination and know that there actually are benefits to procrastinating. Also, in the future when my friends are stressed out I will be able to acknowledge what kind of procrastinator they are, based on the ways they procrastinate. This will allow me to help give them advice in the future, which is really important to me, especially since they let me use their lifestyles as examples for my essay!
Overall, procrastination can be a hindrance to some and not others, but an increase in technology use such as Facebook, and text messaging, due to a desire to avoid work can lead to negative health effects for everybody. As technology becomes more prevalent in society, we need to learn how to focus our attention and get work done, so that we do not become a society full of humans with health problems due to increased technological use and extended deadlines. There are different forms of procrastination, some more positive than others, such as those who intend to delay their work, and know the exact consequences of these delays. If we figure out how to get the work done early, or specifically focus our procrastination habits in the way that planned procrastinators do, maybe technology as a form of procrastination wouldn’t be such a bad thing. My job right now though, as a student and a friend, will be to encourage my peers to start the work early, make lists, and focus on the rewards of completing work early. I was unaware that Facebook was the leading source of college student’s Internet use, and since learning that I feel as though I have been grouped in with everyone else. I have fallen subject to the procrastination disease, and in order to curve this from getting any worse I aim to decrease my Facebook use. Not enough people are aware of the health effects that procrastination can have on students, and I believe that if more people were aware of the effects of procrastination and continued technological use, more people would be changing their habits to induce and increase positive work ethics.
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