Romanticizing school perpetuates unrealistic productivity standards

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Graphic Illustration by Alyssa Wang

A post it note, covered in elegant doodles, taped to graph paper with washi tape, preaching satirical advice.

Lilly Wu

Romanticizing school, a catch-all term used to describe the use of aesthetically pleasing school supplies, preppy outfits and idealistic study habits, has gained attention for the toxic mindsets perpetrated by social media and Lynbrook’s academic environment. However, the trend not only sets unrealistically high standards of productivity but also leaves a negative impact on both mental and physical student health. Many students idealize a falsely curated image of school, meant for motivation but perpetuating the idea of extreme productivity and being the perfect model student. 

This romanticization has been popularized over social media and popular movies and TV shows, such as Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls. This preppy aesthetic is presented through characters like Hermione Granger and Rory Gilmore, paragons of academic performance and overcommitment. Teenagers often idolize and try to replicate the character’s impractical standards: doing things such as buying school supplies and trying to take visually pleasing notes. 

“When I think about romanticizing school, the first thing that comes to mind are those study accounts on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etcetera.,” freshman Caroline Yan said. 

Despite its harmless intentions, the romanticization of school creates unrealistic expectations by promoting comparison to social media influencers, damaging student mental health and supporting materialistic items over academic improvement. Similar to unrealistic beauty standards, productivity standards perpetrated by the romanticization of school will influence teenagers to compare themselves to productive and successful influencers they see online and feel pressured to be like them. When students fail to reach these models of perfection, the outcome is counterproductive to their mental health.

“Sometimes, we set really high expectations for ourselves,” senior Dhanish Natarajan said. “When we don’t meet those goals, we just become disappointed and unmotivated.”

Even after reaching their end goal of maximum efficiency, students often can suffer adverse effects as a byproduct of over-productivity. Once life becomes consumed by productivity standards, self-care gets disregarded. Students often push themselves too far by staying up late, not taking breaks and neglecting mental health. 

“There are times when I’ve stayed up late studying for a test or finishing up some homework,” Natarajan said. “As a result, in many cases I used to end up sleeping less, feeling really tired the next day at school.”

However, romanticization sometimes still adheres to its original purpose of motivating students. The studygram community on Instagram has many positive effects, including sharing useful study tips and disseminating helpful learning resources. The romanization of studying is still inspiring a number of students that haven’t yet fallen into the toxic trap of unrealistic standards.

“I used to romanticize studying, and I was definitely more motivated then than I am now.” said sophomore Yebin Kim, a former studygram account owner. “I was part of a study group with people who were motivating each other to study together.”

Still, it is important to be aware of the consequences of romanticizing school while appreciating the benefits. Being able to use these standards as a way of motivation without reaching any toxic levels is the key to success. 

Although often intended as a source of motivation for students to improve academically, the romanticization of school has significantly more detrimental effects on students. Not only does it create unrealistic expectations, but it shifts attention away from the actual pursuit of education itself. 

 “Anyone can be productive if they put their mind to it,” Natarajan said. “Ultimately, all they need is the right amount of motivation and a healthy mindset.”