ELGIN — Larkin High School algebra teacher Brian Przybylski took a group of high school students to midnight bowling on a recent weekend.
“It looked like an old-fashioned rock concert, only instead of lighters the kids were texting between shots,” he described. “The four kids on the lane barely spoke to each other, but knew what their 20 friends at home were doing.”
This is just a small picture of what he encounters every day. It’s this technology, he says, that adds stress to young people’s plates.
“Cell phones now connect with the Net and at least pull some of the young out of their basements and back to the real world, but the fact that everyone’s business is everyone’s business can be stressful,” he said.
“The digital age makes comparing successes too relevant to the youth of today,” Przybylski said. “This is where this stress is born. The idea of instant gratification and the MTV attention span is very stressing on young people. It is a generational thing to think you are going to be rich/famous once you graduate, but the lack of patience today is going to be our society’s downfall.”
It doesn’t help that young people are addicted to “status” updates, he said.
“Students are getting hooked on the updates,” Przybylski said, “and the stress they feel is that if they are not interesting every single minute of the day, then the world will pass them by.”
This thought process coincides with what Susan Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University in England, said last year to a British newspaper.
She said that social networking sites remind her of the way that “small babies need constant reassurance that they exist.”
Not the problem itself
However, several local high school and college students contend that it’s not necessarily Facebook which stresses them out but rather the repercussions of using Facebook and other technologies.
“When I do homework, I’ll get distracted by Facebook or texting on my phone,” said Genie Atta, a student at Elgin Community College. “This adds to my stress because those are wasted times — being on Facebook or texting. I could be spending more time working on my paper than looking at people’s statuses. I am also a big procrastinator, so it adds even more stress to get things done on time.”
According to a recent study at Ohio State University, college students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grade point averages than students who have not signed up for the social networking Web site. Typically, Facebook users in the study had grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had grade point averages between 3.5 and 4.0. In addition, users said they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.
Yet many local young working professionals said Facebook is a stress reliever because it’s a welcome distraction during or after a long day’s work.
“It’s a pretty nice outlet to have,” said Mike Porten, 26, of Streamwood. “Though it’s not face-to-face, the interaction, throughout the day, with people who I actually like, is a very positive thing during work hours. It really does feel like a high school reunion, but in a light, fun way.”
Local resident Margaret Collins, 26, agreed. “Facebook is like reality TV, a time waster yet mindlessly entertaining.”