Writer: Joan Schueller I Photographer: North Steinbacher
I just don’t care anymore is an attitude that permeates our culture. Whether it is working through a college degree or reading the flood of news we receive daily, it is hard to stay invested in everything all at once. We have resorted to the most simple response of apathy. It is easy to get swept up in the fast-paced world we live in and meaning and purpose are lost on us. What can be said to remedy the problem? Maybe the use of time and space can help alleviate this sense of apathy.
Dr. Uche Anizor, Christianity Today’s award-winning author of Overcoming Apathy defines apathy as “an indifference and a lack of motivation toward the things that would normally bring flourishing in our lives and in the lives of other people.” Anizor has noticed that “apathy right now is seen as just a regular part of life and if you experience it it’s just normal,” but in actuality, it is an erosion of purpose and meaning.
When asked what he thinks contributes to apathy, Anizor responded,
“the inundation with information, inundation with trivial information, inundation with meaningful information all, mixed in together… that contributes to a… loss of meaning.”
Dr. Timothy Muehlhoff, professor of Communication Studies at Biola University, describes the stress of the modern world on Gen Z like a sinking ship. Muehlhoff has seen one response of young adults is isolation: staying in the corner alone as the ship goes down. Some young adults are so overwhelmed with their own problems and emotions that they no longer can care about relationships.
The conjunction of mental health, stress from world events, and information inundation fuels apathy and affects interpersonal relationships.
Muehlhoff has found that Gen Z may be feeling the effects of apathy in dating culture.
“Dating apps means I can date the entire world…[we] always want to know [what] our options are and [we want to] keep [our] options open,” Muehlhoff states.
Anizor maintains that apathy changes an individual’s posture towards meaningful things, including relationships. Anizor comments that
“Sometimes we can find ourselves… unmotivated to enter into a relationship and really engage meaningfully.”
The disconnect from meaning and purpose can lead to an extremely stressful and thus impaired state. Dr. Arianna Molloy, professor of Communication Studies at Biola University, believes that nonverbal illiteracy is an honest threat to communication climate, especially with Gen Z.
According to the American Psychological Association dictionary, nonverbal communication is defined as the act of conveying information without the use of words. Molloy says that nonverbal literacy is “our ability to recognize social cues and then respond appropriately.” For the current generation, Molloy believes nonverbal literacy “has just diminished” due to stress. Outside of reduced awareness of nonverbal cues, Molloy states stress can lead to excessive and sometimes unhealthy withdrawal in addition to physical tension.
Both Anizor and Molloy suggest honest remedies to the stresses of the modern world which include the nonverbal uses of time and space.
Time and Space
Anizor and Molloy agree that the unconscious and oftentimes frivolous use of time on social media contributes to apathy. Anizor suggests we should commit ourselves to times of intentional disengagement from social media to consume more meaningful content. Being aware of public spaces Molloy suggests “[coming] prepared to spaces with something to do other than be on your phone” as well as refraining from wearing headphones because it says it discourages others from talking to you.
Finally, Molloy and Anizor stress the importance of Sabbath which includes the intentional use of time as well as the intentional manipulation of space.
“I would love if [professors] could inspire students away from idolizing busyness and certainty which comes from overworking…to a place of feeling empowered in their schedules,” Molloy says.
This is achieved through intentional time of peace and rest in weekly Sabbath. Additionally, creating a physical space to partake in Sabbath devoid of distraction and work can help with reconnecting to meaning in life. The goal of Sabbath is having a place where meaning and purpose can be found despite our busy world.
We are challenged daily by the constant shifting state of the world as well and internal circumstances. We try to avoid these challenges through the escape of no longer caring and inadvertently hurting relationships with others and our ability to discern meaning in life. Being recentered by the intentional use of time and space can renew our sense of meaning and bring back enthusiasm for life.