College and high school students are turning to Study With Me videos to destroy homework procrastination. Their lives are no different from older generations. Today’s students seek support. They feel lonely sometimes. To solve this, students turn to technology to increase their motivation. They hold each other accountable. They take the library to their laptop with study tubers.
This trend has a long history of development on the web that starts with ASMR.
The term ASMR has its online roots in chat forums and stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response dating back to 2007. Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR fame associates the trend with childhood. “Whenever your mother would treat you delicately, or your doctor or teacher would talk to you gently… The caring touch is the biggest trigger.”
ASMR creators assume that people need to feel personally comforted on the Internet. As early pioneers like Maria realized that quiet soothing sounds produce spine-tingling sensations in people, they used sound to facilitate the experience. Things like the sound of scissors when getting a hair cut. Or crunching food as it is being eaten. Even just whispering can have an effect.
Study With Me Origins
Now imagine a world where life as a student sucks. Everyone expects you to succeed. You’re not doing that. Homework procrastination is so easy. The pressure to succeed is overwhelming.
From that pain point, study tubers today get millions of views on YouTube from doing just one thing: study. In front of a video camera. All by themselves. With the ASMR sounds of pencils scratching notes on paper.
Study with me videos have their origins in ASMR. ASMR creators would make low-budget videos based on their surroundings in their bedroom and living rooms. In September 2014 YouTuber Oldwonderfulsounds read a particularly boring academic article titled “The High Prevalence of Injury Among Female Bassoonists” to put her readers sleep. She stapled the papers together carefully at her desk. She even took notes as she read to her viewers.
Other YouTubers intent on creating alternatives to their normal content would get stuck with revising for exams. In April 2015, ASMRAlice in the UK used her school homework as a tool to create ASMR effects. With whispers and explanations, Alice flips through sticky notes and scratches words on paper from her desk in her video.
The combination of study ASMR didn’t exactly create award-winning content.
Study With Me Study Tuber #1
Mercifully, there was Heleen from Brussels. Anxious about finding some study buddies, she posted in May 2015 about creating a place for people to connect and learn together.
Determined to stop her homework procrastination, Heleen took action. She did not focus on not getting more friends in school. Her channel never showcased fashionable style to get extra clicks for video production. Heleen realized beautiful stationary and back to school videos would not inspire an A. Instead, she shared her desire to build a connected community focused on study.
Three years later, Heleen tells me that people keep coming back because they can find a positive environment to study in. Visitors chat during scheduled 10 minute breaks. As for Heleen, she is on the verge of beginning a career in chemical engineering as she finishes her master’s degree.
Her demeanor is simple, straightforward, and always friendly. According to Heleen, “If I had never started streaming, I would continue procrastinating. I was getting bad grades in math and would have failed. This is an accountability system for me. There is a sense of collaboration and usefulness to our work together.” During our conversation, I was most struck my Heleen’s sense of gratitude to give back to the community that had inspired.
It was as if she owed them something.
Since Heleen posted the first ever study with me video on June 1st, 2015, thousands of students have joined the movement to create their own videos. Millions of students are following these channels across YouTube. You can read more about the varying approaches to study with me videos here.
Expert Perspective: What the Critics Say
Smaller education companies are getting in the mix too. At Studygate, students are creating micro Study With Me sessions with their classmates. Too often, you know what you need to do but just can’t take the first step. Study with me sessions solve that and gives you a place to feel connected with your classmates.
Of course, there are many reasons to question the value of studying with other humans online. MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle believes “the Internet is taking us places we don’t want to go. We remove ourselves from our grief or from our revery, and we go into our phones… we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves. And over time, we seem to forget this, or we seem to stop caring.”
Turkle is right that emotions of sadness and excitement are neutralized online, but other professors are slower to condemn a movement dedicated to beating homework procrastination.
Mitchell Nathan is professor of educational psychology and learning sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He compares Study With Me videos with parallel play when young children build blocks next to each other without directly getting involved in the other’s actions. Interest is there, but full engagement is not needed. Nathan describes study with me sessions as a time when “You’re ignoring each other, but that’s still much more preferable than doing it all by yourself.”
Stefan van der Stigchel teaches experimental psychology at the University of Utrecht and describes Study With Me videos as an opportunity to find a place of belonging. “You have the same thing in a library, you just have to look around you to see that you’re all doing the same thing, that’s motivating.”
The Future of Study
Today it’s easy to look at the lives of future generations and believe their experiences will be worse than our own. If humans use technology to be more productive and get better grades, we still have to apply these to things that matter. What are we doing to positively impact the lives of others?
Heleen used the digital tools around her to build a group of friends. To encourage accountability. She made discipline out of homework procrastination. And she did it on YouTube.
As Study With Me videos continue to grow, we should look at the trend as a tool to inspire tomorrow’s leaders. So thank you YouTube. And thanks Heleen. For taking homework procrastination out of the Internet.