Latent functions of quarantine midterm studying

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I know you’re probably thinking, “What the heck is a latent function?” If you’re not thinking that, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, this sounds like a ridiculous, yet pretentious article.” And I see where you’re coming from. In fact, I agree. But first, let me explain.

Latent functions are formally defined as “any function of an institution or social phenomenon that is unintentional and often unrecognized.” For the sake of this article, I shall call them unforeseen side effects. So really, this is just an article about the effects of studying for midterms in quarantine. There, now that sounds less pretentious and less … well, maybe just as ridiculous. Regardless, let’s get into the meat.

Even less sleep than before 

The first unforeseen side effect of quarantine midterm studying is the change in our sleeping schedules. Or maybe it is foreseen, but we just choose not to care very much about it. Unlike normal, socially constructed time, quarantine time is even less real, and most nights, it goes from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. way too quickly. We’ve gone from going to bed late to going to bed super late — yet our morning lectures are still at the same time as they would be if we weren’t quarantined. This means we’re getting way less sleep, and we all know what that means: less dreaming. And that is bad news. Sure, a wack sleep schedule can mess up your circadian rhythm and help lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, but so will eating pizza every day. Dreams, though, cannot be found anywhere besides while sleeping. And dreams are like a nice, almost lifelike escape from our current surreal quarantined world. Without dreams, where else will you get to live out your wildest, subconscious fantasies? Morale would come crashing down! Another side effect of lack of sleep is having nightmares, which produces even worse results. Dreams are very necessary for keeping sane in these strange times, so lack of sleep is a reason to dislike midterms.

Lack of cleanliness

The next unforeseen side effect impacts cleanliness and general hygiene. When studying for a midterm, there can be so much content to look at: notes, lectures, PowerPoint slides, homework assignments, discussion worksheets, etc. It can all be a little bit much when there isn’t even a single square inch of visible desk beneath all the papers. Not only that, but once your midterm is completed, you come back to a whole mess. It’s hard to get anything done in your childhood bedroom, let alone your messy childhood bedroom! With your mom shoving a duster and broom into your hands, now you have to clean up after yourself, unable to relax and unwind after what could’ve been a very demoralizing but definitely exhausting test. 

Forced productivity that distracts from boredom

Finally, the last unforeseen side effect: Midterms make you spend time doing necessary studying that can genuinely take your mind off of things during this quarantine period. There are not many things you can do if you’re stuck at home. Obviously, there are the staples Netflix and Hulu, YouTube videos, the occasional bout of gaming, eating and sleeping. For weekend plans? Those seem more than ideal. For monthlong plans? It can be a little repetitive, especially for people used to being on the move all day. At least with midterms, and with school in general, the grind does not stop. That means you get to study for a couple hours and focus, taking your mind off the state of the world.

Quarantining is a necessary step to making sure everyone stays safe and healthy, but it also changes the way midterms affect our lives. As stressful as midterms are, at least they keep away the stir-craziness, and sometimes, that’s more than enough to make them appreciated.

Contact Hamzah Alam at [email protected].