When I was a junior in high school, I was in a class of mostly seniors in Honors Physics. I went to a small catholic school (250 total students), so the elevated academic class for the juniors were just the lower level senior classes. I was one of approximately 5 Juniors in a class of 20 seniors. 

Anyone who has been in education knows that the difference between elevated classes and lower level classes rarely has anything to do with academic ability. Usually, it has more to do with academic desire and classroom behavioral problems. This means that these classes are usually filled with boys, and my physics class was no exception. 

Mr. A was the teacher of this class. He was a friendly, good natured guy, but also had his quirks. He certainly had not won the respect of the seniors. In fact, because of his quirks, they knew exactly how to get under his skin by making creative disruptions to class. These could come in the form of frequently asking for bathroom visits or deliberate tangents towards the topic of the US government.  

On one spring day, Matt, leader of senior boy disruptors, decided to make high pitched noises whenever Mr. A’s back was turned to write on the board. It took a couple turns, but Mr. A started keying in on the area the noise was coming from. Then out of inspiration and concern for his classmate, another senior boy from the other side of the room started banging on his desk the next time Mr. A wrote on the board. Now Mr. A turned his attention to the new source of commotion. It was not long before, all of the senior boys were either hitting their desk, stomping their feet, or making high pitched sounds every time Mr. A turned around. Yet, even in his growing frustration, he was never able to identify any one person making the commotion at each turn. 

I was enjoying the show, and in a sudden desire to join in on the fun, I raised my feet and stomped. At the exact moment I raised my feet, Mr. A turned and looked straight at me. By the time my feet had hit the floor, he had the detention slip out. Before I could comprehend what was happening, I had my first detention. Out of the entire class, I was the only one to receive any discipline that day. 

Looking back, I know that the detention was not that big of a deal. Yet in the moment, I was not a fan of the perceived injustice (I was the only one punished), and I was concerned at my parents reaction (they took it better than expected). Now, as a former teacher, I understand Mr. A’s frustration, and regret my disrespect to him. Sometimes I ask myself: Why did I do something disrespectful that I had never done in any other class before?

The explanation is simple. Beside my people pleasing insecurities of desiring to be cool with the senior boys, I was in an environment which urged me to join in, and I accepted the invitation. The influence of an environment cannot be understated. Whether it be raising children, hanging out with friends, or choosing the places you shop, our environment has the ability to shape and influence our decisions. When it came to making the decision to stomping on the floor to disrupt class, the environment heavily influenced my decision. Yes, I made my own decision and am responsible for that. However, in no other class would I have even considered being disruptive.

With the increasing amount of time that the culture is spending on the internet, we have to ask ourselves about what environment we are putting ourselves in for often hours at a time on a daily basis. Because of its excitement and endless possibilities, many have failed to recognize the negative atmosphere that occurs on the internet, specifically social media and news sites. We can spend hours consuming criticisms and judgments of people, political parties, or religious figures. These negative thoughts and opinions can spill into our own lives and affect how we treat others, even the ones closest to us. The world is not getting rid of the internet so as a culture, we need to adjust the way we use it if we want to be a healthy society. Individually we can take measures to regulate our time in front of a screen. We also can make sure the things we are viewing are not sinful, but lifting our minds to God. It takes discipline, but so does all healthy activity!