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Today, any college student can recognize that people possess two identities: their social media presence and their actual self. The former consists of an idealized version of themselves. It is how they wish to be perceived instead of how they are. It’s the most attractive, fun, and enlightened they can be. Although this filter doesn’t portray the truth, it’s what their followers see the most, which means it becomes the truth for them. On average, we see more people online than in real life, so these Perfect People become our reality, which of course, makes it nearly impossible for us to feel as if we naturally fit into this reality.  

Throughout this pandemic, especially in the summer, we haven’t seen as many people in real life as we used to. At the same time, we are online a whole lot more. Our reality has become social media. We find our social lives entangled within Snapchat and gain our perspective of what’s happening in the world from Twitter. 

Not only are we on social media a whole lot more, but we are posting slightly different material than we used to. Quarantine selfies have taken precedence over group photos and location shots. We are more creative in how we express ourselves online. Curating a profile is a way to get to know ourselves and explore everything we could be. We are living through an era in which we are spending a lot of time with ourselves. Social media is a way to document this and help us become the people we want to be. 

Social media has also become a tool for anyone to share thoughts on politics, social justice, and the handling of the virus. Some post out of a genuine desire to inform their followers, and some post performatively to prove that they’re “woke.” Although this phenomenon produces more social awareness, it also leaves many people divided as they take it upon themselves to judge each other. Personally, I tend to question whether or not the people I see on social media are being safe by wearing a mask and staying away from crowds. If I determine that they are not being safe, I reflect on my own behavior in an attempt to justify my judgment. Sometimes I find myself judging others for posting a picture without a mask when I know I’ve done the same thing. The rules are murky, and so is my passing judgment on social media.

It’s a tough time for everyone. Leaning on social media to fulfill our need for human interaction is not a bad thing. It has helped us all maintain a connection with the outside world. However, it is important for us to acknowledge the pitfalls that come with it. It is by no means a complete replacement for real interaction and can certainly make us feel insecure or isolated. As long as we are aware of our personal relationship with our phones, we can get through this pandemic.

Currently a sophomore at NYU studying Dramatic Writing! Loves a good story, a cup of coffee, and all things New York City. Can be found on Insta @lilly.ulrich.
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