A Look at Indifference in Student Mentality
Jini Seok, Staff Writer
Supposedly, we are in our prime at this very moment in our lives – the youngest we’ll ever be, the lightest our bodies will ever feel. We’ll look back at the life as students we have now and reminisce about the youth, the excitement, the tears we shared with fellow exhausted friends, and perhaps even indulge in that cliched “Oh, how time flies” conversation. But while we’re still here, filling our eyes with tears and relishing the youth we only covet once we feel its absence, should we not yearn to
experience the present to its fullest? It seems we are doing the very opposite.
Maybe it was a natural, gradual move, but I felt it like a sudden wave when I noticed common tendencies in the trends that gained popularity through social media. The phrases and jokes we were quick to embrace, such as the concept that we are all simply floating on a big rock, or that the homeless man standing over there is really an NPC, or that maybe we’re a mere character of an overall plot line, perhaps even the protagonist if we’re lucky, are all along the same lines of reasoning. They are promoting the idea of depersonalization and a forlorn indifference to life.
The very concept of NPCs being attributed to ourselves and others is, in a way, an expression of our attempt to dissociate ourselves from reality. We joke about some people not being “real” but rather an NPC, a “Non-player character” – terminology used in video games to describe AI generated avatars. Not only is this a dangerous way to view other people, it also invites the questioning of our own authenticity in our life, and we found that the easiest solution to this existential confusion is to deny. We deny and distance ourselves from the authenticity and turn our heads away from life that’s approaching us with full force. Such ideas as NPCs portray the desire of denying ourselves the right to live. It seems that we are harbouring a sense of indifference towards life within ourselves, manifesting it in our shared sense of humour — because what is humour if not a coping mechanism?
Perhaps we were forced to suppress our capacity to feel, considering we had to find a way to retain our sanity through the insufferable and seemingly never-ending pandemic. Whether we truly feel that way or are just putting up a mask of protection, the repression of our emotions has resulted in our projection of detachment and nonchalance. We had to find a way to adapt because the world around us decided a pandemic was apparently a comfy place to settle for an indeterminate amount of time. So now, when our classes get cancelled because the professor got COVID, we go on with our day. When our friends suddenly drop off the face of the earth to quarantine, we go on with our day. And thus we learn to grow a sense of indifference, or rather the incapacitating sense of indifference grows within us, changing our perspective of the outside world from within.
I’d like to say our stoic ways aren’t our fault, that we have been pushed too far and have reached a point in our lives where we’d rather feel nothing at all than feel ourselves live. Where we project ourselves onto characters in movies rather than admit to actually participating in real life. Although finding comfort in maintaining this attitude of ours may well have been prompted by unprecedented global events, we are the ones allowing this mindless outlook to permeate all aspects of our life. The same flat reasonings unceasingly echo around and within me: “Oh I have a week until my test, I have plenty of time,” “My test is tomorrow, I have all day to study,” “I did so badly, but whatever, I’ll just start studying sooner next time.” Do we ever start studying sooner? No. Even as students, our indifference sneaks into our ability to handle stress, such as fast approaching deadlines or flunking tests. Yet we just brush it off and go on with our day.
Perhaps deeming it a coping mechanism was once acceptable, but now it’s just a sad attempt at escapism with a sprinkle of self pity. Two long years have passed and we’ve had plenty of time to go through all seven stages of grief, so why are we still giving life the cold shoulder? Why are we desensitized to the self-made shackle that keeps us from seeing the world for the vivid and thrilling adventure that it can be?
It’s time to allow ourselves to start living again like the way we did as children and actually notice the world around us. We should relearn how we once used to soak in even the smallest details and saw the world through a rich, colourful lens. Though we are students, we shouldn’t be blinded by the work and forget that we are, against all odds, still alive and breathing, still young and curious. Let’s come back into our bodies that we seem to want to escape and revive what we proclaimed dead and cold. Let’s allow ourselves to truly feel and open ourselves up to the experience of existing and all the quirks it comes with, and let’s just let ourselves live.