Introducing ‘alternative studying’: A better way to procrastinate

Ask me how finals are going

As the semester winds downs, now is the time to fully demonstrate our commitment to those distinguished activities that don’t get nearly enough recognition from the faceless monolith of the academy.

In my first-ever contribution to what appears to be an institution of local procrastination, I’m here to provide some language for a shared collegiate experience which crosses partisan and social boundaries: alternative studying.

We may not be studying anything GPA-shattering, but we’re definitely becoming more interesting and nuanced citizens in this competitive global economy … right?

As our good American jobs are transforming into robots faster than we can get endorsements on LinkedIn,  the way that we study is changing too. An instructor might assign a five-thousand word essay on Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but I will surely find myself reading this fifty-page journal article that I found linked through someone’s twitter when I Googled my co-worker’s brother. Or, alternatively I might watch the new season of Sense8.

Truthfully, me writing this mediocre article is perhaps the most prime example I can give of alternative studying. Am I working towards finishing outstanding assignments that contribute towards my academic success? I’m going to intentionally not answer that by pivoting to another question: How many of you are reading this instead of doing your goddamn homework?

alternative studying Student in front of computer screen covered with pictures of puppies turns to smile at camera

We’re not actually sure if this counts as alternative studying

Now more than ever, there are myriad ways to not study.

In W.E.B. Dubois Library alone, there are 26 floors, all of which have been–and likely currently are being–directed towards the honored tradition of alternative studying. Take the ninth floor, for instance, where systemic alternative studying has actually been institutionalized. Don’t tell me you’re doing a group project, I can hear every word you say from the spot where I was taking a nap behind an absurd plaster bust of Beethoven.

Often I’ll sit in the DML in front of a desktop monitor with my laptop open, just because I like looking at the big screen while I’m checking my Gmail.

alternative studying desktop computer next to a laptop computer filled with browser windows and tabs

I use the Digital Media Lab to watch Youtube videos and I am a fraud

The connection between new media and the recent proliferation in alternative studying practices is clear. Consider the culturally enriching practice of maintaining dozens of internet browser tabs open at all times. Each page, unique and important in its own way, quickly becomes useless when one’s computer finally, inevitably crashes. How many unfinished BuzzFeed quizzes will be lost, is literally anyone’s guess.

alternative studying Student sitting at a desk with two laptops in front of him

Alternative studying with two laptops?

Does this column condone the sneaky-as-fuck normalization of illiberal political rhetoric under the guise of  “alternative facts”? Am I trivializing a rhetorical strategy which undermines our rights as citizens in a democracy? Will I ever finish the paper that I started three days ago?

I’ll leave you to ponder those questions while you finally take that Game of Thrones personality quiz you started three weeks ago.

For my part, I’m going to pirate Princess Mononoke and head to the library in the hopes of getting a sophomore to buy me an Odwalla smoothie with one of the many swipes they undoubtably have no clue what to do with. Catch me on the eleventh floor, hogging a study carol stacked with books, while watching anime with headphones in.

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UMass Amherst