Unplugged: A Discussion About Social Media and The College Student

The start of a new school year! The start of new classes and study groups. The start of cozy sweaters and late Friday nights. The start of consuming more coffee than you should and the start of some amazing new memories! It’s also the start of new Snapchats and Insta-pics and tweets and even Facebook statuses on just how great every other college student’s life seems to be!

Social media: A blessing and a curse to our society. I love being able to stay up to date on how my friends' lives are from miles away with just the click of a button. But at the same time, what happens when I see all my friends having so much fun while I’m stuck in my room doing work? It sucks. How toxic is social media to a college student’s life?

It’s a Friday night around 9. All of your friends are starting to get ready to make the same trek to the same frat houses as last Friday. You have an exam on Wednesday, a paper due Tuesday, and too much reading due Monday. You’re stuck with the decision to either go out with your friends or stay back and do your work. Well, if you don’t go, you just know how much you’ll be regretting that decision later that night after seeing endless snaps of that same party as always. Why does it matter so much? Is it really as fun as it seems online? Some would argue yes, some would say no. But either way, when you see the moments you missed, you’ll definitely get hit with some FOMO.

Having talked with some friends, it seems that many of them feel as if social media has become a sort of competition of who’s having the best life. I think that’s a fair assumption to make; I’d be lying if I said I haven’t posted on social media just so people know that I’m doing more than sitting in my dorm room. But social media seems to have come to a point where even if someone is having the worst time, their posts make it seem like they are having the time of their lives! We all know someone who seemed to be having a great college experience freshman year and then they decide to transfer for sophomore year because they actually weren’t having fun at all.

I’m a big proponent of everything in moderation and I have found the more I limit my time on social media, the better I feel. Without a constant pressure to always seem like I’m having the time of my life, it’s easier to just live in the moment. I don’t worry so much about what other friends — or for that matter, all the people I have on social media that I don’t actually know — are doing without me when I’m not constantly refreshing Snapchat or Instagram.

I also do find relaxation in letting my mind wander aimlessly through social media to distract me, just for a little bit, from the everyday stress of classes. I couldn’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent laughing at vines or tweets. For example, my best friend and I rarely get the chance to talk for long anymore because we’re in different states, living extremely busy lives -- but we have DM’s on twitter that are just streams of funny tweets we send, more than we text, to remind us that we’re always thinking about each other.

I think the conversation of social media and college students has to be talked about more than just a passive aggressive comment during family gatherings about how “all kids do nowadays is stare at their phones.” Understanding how social media affects your personal mental health is extremely important because you should be able to step back from the internet when you realize it’s affecting you negatively.

Social media has become an integrated part of our lives and, for better or for worse, it seems to just be growing. Instead of making social media the enemy, we all have to understand our own capacities for social media and shouldn’t belittle our friends who either spend too much time or no time at all on it.

 

At the end of the day, social media affects everyone differently and the conversation should be focused more on how it has different impacts on everyone rather than the current conversation about how social media is not good at all for the psyche.

 

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