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College Students and Their Elusive Silence

Stop!
Put down the
phone. Turn off the
computer. Lower the music.
Now, listen to the
glorious
sound of mental and
physical silence.
Nowadays, peoples' minds are absolutely bombarded with
information, noises, sights, and messages. Everyone has become so
accustomed to this endless stream of stimulation that most dont even
realize its happening anymore. The advertisements on benches, the
colorful propaganda on coffee cups, and the constant commercials all
seem to go unnoticed by the average person.
In fact, these things are really only seen when one bothers to
look up from whatever device theyre using. In order to experience
them, they must turn down the music that theyre playing, glance
away from whichever screen theyre fixated on, or mute whatever the
television blares in the background. It seems that although theres a
great deal of content and ads being jammed into the minds of the
public, this constant mental buzz is also somewhat self-inflicted.
A 2014 study done by Baylor University showed that college
students in particular were willingly succumbing to this endless
stimulation. The online survey of 164 college students showed that
females spend approximately 10 hours a day on their phone, and
males spend about eight. The study also tracked the individual
activities of 24 cell phones. Although much of the time was spent
answering emails and texting, there also was a great deal of time
spent checking up on social media and looking for sources of
entertainment. In fact, one male student claimed that sometimes he
went on his Twitter app just to waste time.
These eight to 10 hours account for an extremely large chunk of
time in a day, and this study doesnt even include other forms of time-
wasting entertainment and stimulation. These young adults often
possess more than just their phone. When they ride the bus, they wear
an iPod to keep themselves from sitting in silence. When there are
commercials on television, they browse the Internet on their laptops.
When the assignments have ended, they flip on the gaming console
and embrace the cacophony of sounds emitting from their speakers.
This never-ending clamor brings about a question begging to be asked.
When is there time for quiet? When is there time for these
college students to turn off the gadgets, step away from the phone,
and instead bask in the now antiquated luxury that is silence?
Dr. Steve Taylor, a senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan
University who holds a doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology, believes
that these students, and people in general, need to make the time. He
wrote this observation in his article The Power of Silence.
We dont have to fill our free time with attention absorbing
distractions like TV and computer games, which take us even further
away from ourselves, wrote Taylor. We should do the opposite: make
sure there are some periods when our attention isnt absorbed, when
we can rest in silence, and make contact with our true selves again.
Some college students, however, dont seem to want to quiet
down. In fact, they cant. They seem to be particularly guilty of
deliberately drowning out the silence with any one of their numerous
devices. According to some sources, its not that they have things to
do, but rather, after being stimulated for so long and so constantly,
they feel strange not doing anything at all.
One college student said that she hasnt had quiet time for at
least a year.
The time I actually dont have work to do, Im watching either
YouTube or Netflix, said an 18-year-old Molloy College student, Ryana
Lefevre. The only time I actually get peace and quiet is when I sleep.
An Alfred State College student, 18-year-old Brian Collins, said
that he hates the silence.
If Im in a room by myself and theres nothing on, Im sleeping,
said Collins. Theres no such thing as silence with me. Im either with
friends or listening to music or watching T.V.
Even Taylor noticed this phenomenon in his classes and
discussed his personal experience on the matter.
As a lecturer, I often notice students taking out their IPhones
and cell phones to check them (and I tell them to put them away),
said Taylor. It seems to be addiction which they have little control
over.
This deliberate effort to drown out the quiet and have a forever-
stimulated mind is something thats been going on for years now, but
the effects are beginning to be discovered. In a world where people are
still coming to terms with the burgeoning media, its becoming clear
just how valuable silence is to these young people. Taylor expanded on
this in his article.
It affects concentration and the ability to 'be, wrote Taylor.
Devices create a constant pull outwards which makes it more difficult
for people to remain in themselves - that is, to exist quietly in their
own mental space.
Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, who holds a degree in Human
Development, focused on adolescents in particular and claimed that
silence is actually vital in the development of the teenage mind. She
writes in her article, The Importance of Silence in a Noisy World, that
there needs to be time to think, to sort out who they are as people,
and it seems that theres either no time or no desire to do that today.
The reason we should ask [why silence is golden], and
encourage teens to explore silent spaces, is because we know that self-
reflection is important to human development and learning, wrote
Price-Mitchell. Adolescence is a time when young people discover their
unique identities. Tuning out the noisy world helps young people
develop the ability to reflect and grow.
One of the most inexplicable aspects of this phenomenon is that
many students are aware of this. They know that stepping away from
their devices would be beneficial, that sorting out their thoughts and
settling their mind would be good for their mental wellbeing, but some
still choose to pick up their phone.
Sometimes I find myself checking my phone or turning on the
T.V. even when I dont have to, said a 19-year-old Adelphi student
Charlene Eslis. I know that there are days when I should take a break
from the technology and quiet my mind down, but it can be hard.
Another student said that he behaved similarly.
I rarely sit in silence and reflect on my day anymore, said 18-
year-old St. Johns student Nicholas Lande. Honestly, I sometimes feel
consumed by technology. It can feel like a drug. I need it the more that
I use it, even though I know its not always healthy.
Though there are countless students that succumb to the
pressure of being perpetually entertained, there are still a few of them
that resist it. Some of them claim that they actively seek out quiet, and
that it helps them unwind from the stress of the day.
It doesnt feel weird silencing my mind at all, said 18-year-old
SUNY Plattsburg student James Mahoney. I dont do it all the time, but
there are some days where I like to sit in silence and deal with
everything. Its nice to get away from the constant buzz of technology.
He said that doing this helps him calm his mind and de-stress,
especially after busy days. A Hofstra University student, 19-year-old
Allison Eichler, echoed Mahoney in a similar statement.
I love putting my phone and my laptop away, even though Im
on them a lot, said Eichler. Its like a breath of fresh air when I put all
of it away and just relax.
In addition to helping these students unwind, stepping away from
their devices and into the silence has benefits for their psychological
health. Taylor claims that he not only can see the difference between
students who choose to embrace the quiet, but also talks of the
positive affects it has on their mental state.
There aren't many who embrace the quiet, but those I have met
have been brighter and more inquisitive, and seemingly more at ease
with themselves, said Taylor. There is a sense of ease and well-being
that comes when one is quiet. Quietness leads to a fading of mental
agitation.
Clearly, there are quite a few advantages to silencing the mind,
but when do college students actually have a chance to do it? Between
assignments, tests, clubs, work, social lives, and the ever-coveted
sleep, there doesnt seem to be a large time frame to squeeze in quiet.
These students advice is to find the time in the most unlikely of
situations. An 18-year-old Stevenson University student, Jonathan
Kuchinskas, said that he takes very long showers to try and quiet his
mind, and a 19-year-old Cooper Union student Emily Jannace said that
she uses her Monday morning laundry time to inject some silence back
into her life.
Mental silence is obviously vital to the minds health and a
persons wellbeing, as explained by numerous college students and
certified psychologists. Regardless of whether a person is a student or
not, its extremely important to power down the devices, make time for
the quiet and bask in its advantageous effects.

How to Add Quiet Into Your Daily Life


_________________________________________________
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References:
Price-Mitchell, Marilyn. "The Importance of Silence in a Noisy World."
The Moment of Youth (2013): Pyschologytoday.com. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Taylor, Steve. "The Power of Silence." Out of the Darkness (2012):


Psychologytoday.com. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Wood, Janice. College Students In Study Spend 8 to 10 Hours Daily on


Cell Phone. (2014): Psychcentral.com. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Parry, Liz. "The Sound of Silence." Thedailymind.com. 12 Aug. 2013.


Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

May, Matthew E. "Quick and Easy Ways to Quiet Your Mind." Harvard
Business Review. Harvard Business Publishing, 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 13
Apr. 2015.