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FOMO with the Romanticization of the College Experience on Social Media 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

For all the girls that feel as though they’re failing to achieve the ‘perfect’ college experience

College is often described as the epitome of a young adult’s life. It’s a time when they get to explore their interests, meet new people and make lifelong memories. Unfortunately, however, the college experience has become overly distorted with social media. 

It’s been romanticized and glamorized to the point where it’s almost unrecognizable from what it actually looks like. And unfortunately, this trend is affecting college students’ mental health, leaving them feeling like they can’t measure up to the idealized images of the perfect college life they see online.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, BeReal and especially TikTok are overflowing with images and videos of college students laughing, partying and seemingly living their best possible lives. So it looks like college is just one big, non-stop party with zero responsibilities, right? Well, not exactly. 

College life is actually filled with academic pressures, financial struggles, and social challenges that can be overwhelming for many students. 

The constant stream of romanticized images of college life can set unrealistic expectations for what college should be like that will eventually prove to be false. You may feel that you’re not living up to these expectations and that you’re missing out on the perfect college experience with the constant pressure of living the so-called “best years of your lives.” This can inadvertently lead to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Research has shown that social media use is associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness in young adults. Another research study found that college students who felt that their lives did not measure up to their friends’ lives on social media reported higher levels of depression.

As college students, a lot of us feel the need to constantly update our social media profiles with pictures of themselves having fun, attending parties, and socializing with friends. This can lead to the famous fear of missing out (FOMO) on social events, and we may even feel pressured to attend events that we do not want to attend simply to maintain a social media image. The desire to maintain a positive online image can create added pressure on students already dealing with academic and personal life stresses. 

This constant pressure to present a perfect image can take a toll on students’ mental health, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and unable to measure up to the unrealistic expectations set by social media.

The romanticization of the college experience on social media can also lead to increased social isolation. Students who feel that they are not living up to the idealized image of college life may withdraw from social events and activities, leading to increased feelings of loneliness and social isolation. 

So, what can be done to combat the negative effects of social media on college students’ mental health? 

Recognizing Social Media is Not Reality

It would be best to recognize that social media is not real life. The images and posts you see on social media are curated and do not reflect the whole reality of college life. It would help to focus on your own experiences and not compare yourself to the idealized images you see online.

Limiting Social Media Usage

Studies have shown that excessive social media use is associated with increased levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Taking regular breaks from social media and spending more time engaging in activities you genuinely enjoy will help you deal with those feelings. 

Build Relationships

Building meaningful relationships with people around you may prove to be beneficial. Social media can create a false sense of connection but is no substitute for real-life interactions. By prioritizing spending time with friends and engaging in activities that promote genuine connection, you will feel better tethered to real life.   

Seek Support

College can be stressful and overwhelming and reaching out when needing help is pivotal for a successful outcome. 

The romanticization of college life on social media can harm college students’ mental health. The pressure to present a perfect image and FOMO can lead to mental health issues. Students should be mindful of the impact of social media and take steps to manage their use, such as taking breaks or seeking out mental health resources. 

I am a second-year English and Political Science major at UF. I hope to inspire readers by writing and providing useful information. I love to read fiction and write about current events.