Easy to mock? Sure. But they're symptoms of a real and growing problem, and not just on campus.
Last week, an art project created by University of Utah student Nemo Miller made headlines for installing a “crying closet.”
A sign on the closet door reads, “A Safe Place for Stressed Out Students. The space is meant to provide a place for students studying for finals to take a short 10-minute break.”
The inside of the “closet” was painted black and the space filled with stuffed animals. Though it began as an art piece, it has resonated with stressed out students and overworked graduates. The idea is not so different from two real nap pods installed at BCIT’s Burnaby campus in 2016. It was first post-secondary school in the Lower Mainland to do so – but now Langara student Kelsea Franzke is calling for the same at her school.
The University of Miami, Wesleyan University, Stanford University, Washington State University all have installed sleeping pods, as have companies like Google, Huffington Post, NASA and Mercedes-Benz.
There is plenty of evidence that short naps of about 20 to 30 minutes help with concentration and can be beneficial for overall health. Helping exhausted students get some shuteye is a good idea, but what’s problematic is the message that this and things like crying closets send: that students should be getting up so early and going to bed so late that they need a midday nap, or stressing so much over their grades that they need a closet to crawl into and cry.
It’s that “hustle culture,” essentially the idea that we should be working all the time, that is contributing to crippling burnout and soaring depression and anxiety rates.
Burnout can make everyday tasks seem impossible, so while young adults might be writing groundbreaking code or creating moving art, they struggle with everyday tasks like stocking the fridge or taking a driving test: “adulting,” as they call it.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians with more than one job has doubled over the past 40 years. Setting up nap pods and crying closets may just be sending the message to young people that this hustle is what they can look forward to for the rest of their lives.
But overall the goal of education isn’t to create robots, exceptionally good at one task at the neglect of others, but well-rounded humans who can function in the real world without a nap pod or a crying closet.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org