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As I slowly welcomed myself to the brand new internet age, social media gradually started to become a more prevalent part of many of our lives. Before I knew it, I would catch myself scrolling through my phone more often than not, and the people around me would be doing the same during their free time. Despite the wonders that social media can provide, I have now learned about both its ups and downs, as well as how to use it in a more balanced way. 

Before I started my first year of college, I never owned a single account on any social media platform. My parents restricted me from it so I could stay safe from things like cyberbullying and hacking. As a result, the main way I communicated with others was through text, and if I were ever to get the slightest glimpse of what is happening on my friends’ socials, it would usually be when they show it to me themselves using their own phones. 

Then, as soon as freshman year of college kicked in, I felt like I was in a culture shock. Every time I met new people, they would almost always ask if I have Instagram or Snapchat in order to stay in touch. As someone who has been accustomed to text messaging pretty much all her life, I was taken aback by how casually these people asked me about my socials. It was as if they assumed that everyone owned accounts of all kinds of social media platforms and that we all communicate through social media as opposed to text. 

Of course, this assumption was most likely true for many people attending CU Boulder, and I was probably the one who had some catching up to do. Aside from being restricted by my parents, I guess another main reason why I didn’t have any social media was that I didn’t really want to fit into what I considered the “norm” and be just like everyone else. I wanted to live my life without constantly feeling the pressure of trying to copy what everyone else around me was doing. 

However, things turned around soon enough. 

At the beginning of my freshman year of college, my sister, who at the time was a junior at CU, warned me that pretty much everyone at CU owned an Instagram account and that it is a popular way of communicating for them. 

So, a few days later, I set up my very first accounts on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. By having these accounts, I was easily able to exchange contact information with the people I met. However, that was as far as I went. Throughout my first year as a university student, I hardly ever glanced at any of my socials except when people messaged me (which hardly ever happened either). 

Then came the beginning of my second year of college. With the onset of COVID-19, all of my classes were remote. As I was stuck in my home for pretty much the entire academic year, I thought to myself that if I wanted to stay connected with the people I know, I had to engage myself more with social media. 

I began uploading my first ever profile pictures on Instagram and Facebook. I also started following some of my friends and relatives and liking their posts. Before I knew it, I became much more knowledgeable about social media than I would have been in high school or middle school. While continuing to be as safe as possible online, I noticed that I would be checking my phone more often instead of doing something more meaningful or productive. I would look at it before and after almost every class; it would also be the first thing I check when I wake up every morning. 

While it was great getting to see what was going on in other people’s lives online, checking my social media came to a point where I was immersing myself in a world where I observe mainly the “perfect” snapshots of people’s lives. As I gained information about the places people traveled to, the way they celebrate certain holidays and occasions, as well as the styles they used for writing captions and taking pictures, I eventually realized that I will never get the big picture. Not to sound like a stalker or anything, but I learned that you will never know exactly everything that happens in every person’s life from a single post uploaded online. For instance, they might post a picture of them smiling, writing in their caption about how happy they are with their lives, but you’ll never know about the issues that they may be dealing with behind the camera. 

With this realization in mind, I learned that in order to live my life to the fullest, it doesn’t mean I have to post everything in a routine manner (or post anything at all). Nor do I have to continually scroll through my phone’s feed every day. To me, all it takes is to be myself and let the moment sink in. Whether or not I get the chance to have certain moments of my life captured on camera, all that should matter is that I had the opportunity to experience it. 

Nowadays, I keep my social media scrolling to a minimum. Although I still own my social media accounts, I’ve learned to distance myself from it by only checking for messages from people I know. Despite the challenges I’ve faced when I started my social media journey, I am grateful for the challenges I faced and the lessons it taught me. Wherever you are on your social media adventure, I hope this article has inspired you to take the right steps.

Gennah Penalosa is currently a social media assistant and writer for Her Campus CU Boulder. She is a junior studying finance and marketing at the Leeds School of Business. When she is not doing homework, you can find her hiking, listening to music, or drawing the face of a random celebrity.
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