By Maya Sargent
In a unique society dominated by 15 year old Tik Tok-ers and teenage youtubers with millions of subscribers, the pressure placed on our generation to succeed has never been more suffocating. In this lockdown period alone, the word 'productivity' has been repeated frequently on social media, along with the questions: Have you learnt anything new? What are you doing to maximise your time? How many books have you read? What are you doing to stay productive? Questions that we would never ask each other in usual everyday life and yet they seem to hold the most importance during this incredibly stressful, abnormal period. Ironically, society’s response to being locked in our houses for a couple of months, in light of a world wide health crisis, is to pressure us into becoming the next Charles Dickens, Van Gough or Joe Wicks (take your pick!).
Globally, we are all experiencing a completely unfamiliar scenario, a worldwide pandemic that is affecting our families, friends, society, the economy… the list goes on. Our feeds are filled with terrifying articles about the consequences of the lockdown, we are living in a constant period of uncertainty, and yet why does it feel like we are being prompted and pressured by social media to perform a full mind and body make over?
I’ll be the first to say, I hate the word 'productivity'. The word alone is associated with negative images that trigger stress and anxiety purely due to the expectations created by social media. An article in The Guardian about the pressures of productivity used the phrase “hustle culture” to pinpoint this feeling of overwhelming pressure. It is so easy to feel coerced into conforming to these expectations, to constantly be learning, creating, becoming, that we can often lose sight of what we actually enjoy and what we actually want to do.
This doesn’t just apply to this lockdown period either. There is an incredible amount of pressure placed upon this generation of young adults to create something original, to constantly use the resources that we have to better ourselves. Whether it is the pressures of teenagers with millions of followers, or influencers, or Youtubers, there is always someone on social media forcing us to reflect on what we have achieved and what we could potentially achieve if we decided to work all hours of the day and strip our lives of any enjoyment; at least that is what it feels like.
We might be studying, working our first jobs,and yet it often feels like we are already losing. Even though we know we are bettering ourselves, it feels like a competition to showcase these achievements to the world so we can have society’s approval on our levels of productivity.
Unravelling the negative connotations surrounding ‘productivity’ is paramount in reclaiming the sanity of our generation and the generations to follow. I truly believe this begins by prioritising what is important to us.
Over the past couple of months, I have found that if I am enjoying what I am doing, I very rarely feel unaccomplished. The power of passion can be very convincing in battling the overwhelming pressures to constantly be bettering yourself. Focusing on what you enjoy can completely alter your mind set, creating a positive, inspiring environment. In addition to this, I have found that when I am doing something I love, I rarely seek society’s scale to justify my productivity levels.
Try it next time when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Prioritise your favourite activities and use them as a guide to defeat the “hustle culture”. We definitely do not need another aspect of society telling us what we can achieve, or how we should do this. Personally, I think we should encourage passion to override the negative connotations of ‘productivity’ and instead use the word as a means to breed original thought that’s harboured from a drive to do something you love.