Connecting the dots: project brainstorming idea 1 (of many)

So I don’t know what I want to do or what is appropriate to do for my Capstone project. I’ve been racking my brain since the first class because I can’t come up with the topic, format, style, etc. But this struggle alone has made me think about a particular topic: distraction.

Last class, Ray asked us to speak about class that has intellectually stimulated us –a class that has transformed us. Listening to everyone’s responses, I couldn’t help but think, “Shit. These all sound like such cool classes! What have I been busy doing for the past four year?” While everyone else was speaking, I was half listening, half trying to remember what classes I’ve taken, what they’ve taught me, and even what they course title was. And then it clicked: I spend most of my time distracted, both in class and out of class. Have I been distracted for the past four years? Are we all distracted and is it inhibiting us from truly learning? Or are these distractions necessary? Is this what college is supposed to be?

Last year, I wrote a paper for my Communications class about how Facebook negatively impacts other people’s happiness. We’re so distracted, not only by the emergence of social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.), but we’re also distracted by the thoughts that consume our minds because of this new trend. I have such a thirst for knowledge, but I spend my days doing everything but studying. And then I think about the last four years and wonder what I’ve done, what I’ve learned.

Trying to understand all of this, I want to conduct a survey and write a comprehensive analysis of the nature of distraction and how it affects our college experiences. I want to ask students similar questions as the ones Ray asked us in class and try to find a pattern or correlation, and see whether this is a widely accepted idea.


8 thoughts to “Connecting the dots: project brainstorming idea 1 (of many)”

  1. Sara,

    I think that you are off to a great start. I also had similar feelings in class when others where speaking about intellectually stimulating classes. I noticed that most of our class spoke incredibly passionately about several classes they have taken so far, and it seemed that an element of nostalgia was needed in order to feel appreciative. In other words, it is only after the experience until we can really see the value. I wonder if this is impacted by our constant distraction. Is it only until we are asked to truly reflect without distractions that we are able to be clear headed and think about the value that we have received from our education? I think conducting a survey and writing an analysis could lead to fascinating findings, and also allow for participants to really consider and reflect on their college experience in the way that our class discussion has allowed for. It could be really cool to incorporate a multi-media element and maybe conduct some in person interviews and create a video? Just a thought!

    Good luck! I am excited to hear about your progress throughout the semester.


  2. Hi Sara,

    I really like this idea – and what interests me most about this is the aspect of nostalgia that Emily brings up. We’re so busy documenting our lives, but does anyone really look back? Do we ever use these platforms as a database – like we’ll have to do for our own work soon and see what it says about ourselves? And this is cliche, but if we’re constantly recording the moment, is it still a real moment? Can we look back it and remember and think – wow that was a good time – or is everything just a blur of distraction? Or, is the reason that classes aren’t remembered because they’re not rich of the type of thing that usually gets posted online. It doesn’t stereotypically fall in the ‘fun’ realm – do we not feel a need to document it in the same way we’d document a party?

    In addition – doesn’t the idea of distraction mean that our brain isn’t fully captured to begin with. Does it mean that whatever we’re focused on/distracted by we in some way value more? Or is it just a way to kill time? And why are we trying to kill time? Is that the way we’re supposed to think about our college experience – as this big waiting experiment for something different? Is that the way we view life?

    Basically I like your idea a lot, and I just have a million questions about distraction. Perhaps these can be framing questions, or questions that you can ask the people you interview?

  3. Hi Sara,

    This is a very relatable and interesting topic. I think your initial understanding and focus on distraction can lead you to some interesting discoveries! One thing that strikes me about this idea is to possibly look at the ways people understand this ‘distraction’. Or are they unaware of it? You could definitely ask people about what they think or you could be the observer and watch others in classes and then draw conclusions that way. If we are truly unaware of this distraction, it might be hard to ask people how they feel about it. Maybe you could make a chart of different types of distraction and look for them as you go throughout your day. Good luck!


  4. Hey Sara,
    This sounds like a great idea and something that I’m sure a lot of us can relate to. This also accomplishes the goal of having the project/portfolio reflect your entire body of work, because you’re dealing with subject matter that characterized your entire college experience. I think your plan to do a survey and an analysis of the nature of distraction and its impact on our college experience is great. But to build on that, maybe in addition to surveying fellow students, you could also survey members of our parents generation. What was the nature of distraction when they were in college? What impact did that have on them. It’s true that there is more out there to distract us today than when our parents were in school, and we are probably more distracted than they were because of that. But is that difference overstated a little bit? There couldn’t have possibly been a such a major neurologic/genetic change in our propensity for distraction over the course of just one generation, right? I’d be really curious about anything you might find about that.

  5. Sara,
    It goes without saying that your topic is going to be relevant to literally every one in this class. Which is perfect. What I’m considering is how to push this past your already written “Facebook is bad” essays. While social media tends to enable us to procrastinate in ways that were unimaginable before, there are many forms of distraction that can be positive. And sometimes even necessary.
    Consider hobbies. In fact, consider writing or blogging. These are assignments for the minor, sure, but doctors and lawyers and other professionals might consider free writing or creative writing a distraction for them. But is it therapeutic for you? I know that free writing is an excellent source of stress relief, but when I free write I’m certainly not studying. And the things I write I would NEVER put into an English essay. So what’s the use? It is a distraction? Or something else. The same goes for running or reading or sewing. Just because we are not focused on the text book in front of us does not mean we aren’t doing something beneficial for ourselves. Ultimately, I’m playing the devil’s advocate for you here. When is a distraction not really a distraction? When is it necessary and positive? When is being distracted good? Hope this helps! Go get em!


  6. Hey, Sara,

    I think you definitely have a good starting point in mind, and I think your theme is most definitely relevant to current times. My main concern would be that this isn’t necessarily big enough. I can be big, but it sounds a little like it may lead to a simple lit review on studies that relate to college students and distraction in the modern age. I would definitely think about how this could be expansive and unique. What could you do with this to make it your own?


  7. Dear Sara,

    Like everyone else in the world, this topic really resonates with me. I too feel your pain about distractio – oooh look a bird flew past my window!

    All jokes aside, I think this is an interesting, timely topic in the Age of the Internet. I’m thinking a lot about Sam’s ideas of “necessary distractions” as I write this, and about how I, during some darker points in my life, turned to Netflix not just to distract me from impending due dates, but also to give me a breather from some really nasty, depressing stuff. Sometimes giving yourself a break from some of the darker sides of reality can be helpful, or as Sam puts it, necessary. Is it possible, then, that those of us who willfully turn to Facebook to distract ourselves from school, delude ourselves into thinking that we’re doing ourselves a favor? Or maybe we are for the first five minutes, but then we fall down the rabbit hole of procrastination? Where does one draw the line between useful and unuseful when we’re talking about distraction?

    One other note – I’ve found that when I’m really stressed out about a particular assignment, say an essay, I take time that SHOULD be spent writing or revising my work and use it to do other, seemingly productive tasks like cleaning my room, catching up on e-mails, etc. Is there something to be said about how sometimes distraction leads us to get other important stuff done?

    I hope this helps!

  8. Hey Sara,

    I can definitely identify with this topic; I’m guilty of being distracted all the time. But, like you mentioned, I think there are both beneficial and detrimental varieties of distraction. I think about them much the same way that Paul Graham discusses “good” and “bad” procrastination in this article (really worthwhile read). The basic premise is that procrastination or distraction can be beneficial if what we are doing is in fact more important to our long term goals than the thing to which we “should” be devoting our attention. After all, there is a reason why it takes top priority in our mind. Though there are plenty of instances in which I think distraction can be detrimental (the current episode of The Office I’m watching), it may be worth looking into these different categorizations apart from their collective stigmatization.

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