Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On the Baddity of Cities

I told you all! Cities are bad for you!

I have heard some criticism of the theory that the article presents, that the hypothesis is not really supported by the data, or that the fact that simply looking at pictures of nature improved performance on certain tests means that something else could be at work. I think these are valid, and that the topic needs some more research, but it is an interesting and intuitively correct hypothesis.

If I spend more than a few days in a city, I do tend to get physically tired and overwhelmed. Each time I go to New York, I am reminded of this. I find that everywhere I go, I am constantly scanning the surrounding area for threats and information. After a few minutes waiting at a subway stop, I have looked at the face of everyone in the terminal, and if anyone new comes in, I turn, look at them, and go back to waiting. It is subconscious, but it causes a lot of stress, since my environment is constantly changing and I am struggling to keep up. If I focus on ignoring my surroundings, I can avoid looking around, but that takes concentration and I still feel uneasy when I hear a turnstile turn but don't look at who came through.

One of my favorite parts of Andover was being able to take a short walk from my dorm and head to the ~100 acre sanctuary, which was a big forested area with a looping path going through it and two ponds. It was my favorite place to go jogging, and was a great way to relax from the pressure of the place. There was rarely anyone else there, or at least it was big enough that I didn't run into people very often, so I could just concentrate on running. In contrast, I haven't found anywhere at Brown where I enjoy running, since I hate running in the city. I tried it a few times, and it was just unbearable. I have to be looking out for cars and people, there are things and places to avoid and I have to remember my route back. If I'm running, I don't want to have to think about anything, and I can't do that in a city (even Providence).

So this article completely made sense, and I would like to see more studies to better establish the validity of the claim for a broader range of people. For me at least, I have known this for a long time.

On the bright side, it could be a lot worse.