On Wesleyan University's campus, there is no room quite so revered and resented as "The Fishbowl." The Fishbowl is a completely quiet study space, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and enclosed on three sides by glass walls - hence the name. Studious occupants of The Fishbowl are put on display for their peers to see, often inspiring anxiety in passersby.
The regulars in the Fishbowl are essentially acting out a long-form performance art piece on exhaustion. On any given night, you can walk past The Fishbowl and see a small group of people still studying. At first, I assumed these students were smarter than me. Here I was, heading off to bed while my peers toiled tirelessly into the wee hours of the morning. It took me a while to realize that I was buying into a false narrative. People study in The Fishbowl to be seen. It's an impressive example of the power of optics - The Fishbowl distorts your late-night procrastinations into hard, honest work.
"But why do we celebrate the students who can't effectively manage their time?"
Places like The Fishbowl only serve to perpetuate a toxic sleep environment on our campus. Students consciously decide to deprive themselves of sleep in full view of their peers. On the few occasions I had to spend a night in The Fishbowl, I got a strange sense of satisfaction watching people walk by. I knew they could see me working hard, though in reality I was goofing off online. I was essentially bragging about the fact that I was sacrificing my sleep in order to study more. While I can't speak for others there, I assume a few felt that same rush of pride.
College students wear their sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. For whatever reason, we believe that those who sleep the least are the smartest, the hardest-working - the ones who will go on to be immensely rich and successful. But why do we celebrate the students who can't effectively manage their time? This phenomenon is not unique to Wesleyan - it's present on campuses across the United States. My friends at different schools all speak to a shared experience: a culture that supports and celebrates the loss of sleep.
"Places like The Fishbowl only serve to perpetuate a toxic sleep environment on our campus."
The Fishbowl is an important fixture on campus. It is one of the only dedicated quiet study spaces on campus, and there are certain benefits to being open 24 hours. But The Fishbowl glorifies sleep deprivation by placing students' exhaustive work ethic in a public sphere. Guys, just take a second to think before you spend a late night studying instead of sleeping. Rather than dragging yourself through the motions of studying, imagine how effective you'll be after a good night's sleep.
This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at email@example.com. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.