The Effects of Social Media: Private vs. Public University Students

Truthfully, the effects that social media can have on girls/women (and boys/men just as equally), are detrimental and downward-spiraling. At given times, social media can be promoting and can also provide an outlet for stress; for the time being though, I will be focusing on the negative connotations that social media has on a student attending a private university versus a student attending a public university.

Having been on both sides of the spectrum, this won’t be difficult to explain, and it will be relatable to those who have followed in my footsteps or whom’s footsteps I’ve followed in.

While attending a private university for my entire freshman year of college - and living in an all girls dorm - wasn’t everything that it was cracked up to be. When I first toured this college in January of my graduating year from high school, I completely fell in love with this place, its surroundings, and the fact that it was private. At the time, I thought that smaller classes would suit me more and that a small campus would be easier to navigate around (this part is true). But later on in the Fall and Spring semester following, I found out how untrue this actually was for me.

This is where social media works its way into the situation. Seeing a familiar face on a daily basis, whether it was in a class, a place to eat, or at sports practices, I began to feel very judged. Having so many social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest - just to name a few - actually made me feel worse about myself being at this private university. All of the people around me that I either followed or followed me on some social media, I always felt like I was being judged by them; and not in a good way.

In short, I felt like I had to have a certain reputation to be popular or to even have friends. It also doesn’t help that social media’s negative connotations have girls (and guys) already comparing themselves to others and striving to be this *perfect* person that doesn’t even exist in them. Face it - no matter how hard you try, perfection is just out of reach. But that’s okay, you weren’t made to be perfect! It took me a little bit longer to learn this than it should have.

Looking back, I felt like I needed to always have a good reputation and be seen with the right people or else I’d be judged poorly. If I was awkwardly standing alone in the cafeteria waiting for a friend to finish getting their plate of food to find a seat somewhere, walking alone to class, or sitting in my hammock all alone with no one around to talk to, I felt judged by all pairs of eyes that were laid on me as they walked past me. I also wasn’t a part of a sorority, and during my Spring semester, wasn’t a part of any sports either; this, I felt like was a priority as a student at this university, or else I’d stand out like an outsider who isn’t a part of anything. Given that it’s a small campus, not being involved in anything made this seclusion seem even worse.

Moving to UCF is where everything started to change for the better.

Once I got accepted to UCF, not even orientation was awkward for me. Being a part of such a huge student body at a public university is so much more relieving because I know for a fact that there are students out there in the 66,000 students that attend this university that aren’t a part of anything; that they’re simply here to attend class, get good grades and graduate. This doesn’t stand true for me since I’m a part of 1 active club aside from the Her Campus UCF chapter, which I’ve found is ultimately where home lies for me since I love to write expressively about anything that comes to mind that I want to share with everyone around me. Living on campus even makes me feel more involved, since I have come to realize that not very many students are actually able to live on campus since our housing does not accommodate. Just being at UCF all of the time and making new friends has made me feel so much more inclusive, even though I’m still not a part of a sorority or a sports team.

One thing that has especially improved since I transferred colleges is that I don’t care so much about what I post on my social media sites. I’m able to post as much as I want whereas previously, I felt like I needed to wait to post something for a few days, and sometimes weeks in order to keep all of my followers. Now, followers are a mere distraction to me, and I’ve learned not to care how many people follow me or about how often I post and what it’s of. I’m also able to follow a ton more people that I’ve met and I find good times to post - whenever the heck I feel like it. I don’t feel like I need a certain reputation which is a relaxing feeling in itself. My transitional article about being a transfer student can be found here.

Ever since I joined a huge family here at UCF, I know that not one student is the same as the next. That I can walk by and see different faces every single day with the exception of my suite mates. That I don’t need to worry about what I post, how often I post, or to keep a certain reputation and always dress the part. I know there’s a population of students out there like me who like to just do the bare minimum as far as makeup or outfits go for class. I’ve become almost careless about how I look; whether I look like I just rolled out of bed, came back from fashion week, or if I’m just too lazy to do a full face of makeup that day. I’ll have those days where I wanna look pretty and I’ll actually put some effort into the way that I look, and just as equally, I’ll have mere opposites of those days. But the important message here that I’ve learned: I don’t always need to look this way. I’ll post what I want when I want to, and if I get unfollowed, so be it. There’ll be plenty more followers as I make more friends, but needless to say, that isn’t something that’s important to me anymore.

Long story short, transferring from a private university and feeling pressured to be a certain someone there to a public university where I have a new, more outward reputation and don’t need to care as much about social media as I do my grades, has helped me significantly with my self-consciousness and self-esteem.

Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of what others think of you. You’ll have your haters, but more importantly, you’ll have your best and closest friends and family that will always be your wall of support, your net to fall back on, and there’ll always be more of them than there will be unfollowers and dislikes. Be yourself since that’s what you were specially made and crafted to do on this Earth. Express yourself however you want to, and don’t ever think badly on who you are. You’re a special person alongside tons of others. You’re a rock star, on and off the red carpet of social media.