Many of us don’t think twice before checking social media almost immediately after waking up. Instinctually, we feel the need to catch up on what we missed during the blissful ignorance of sleep.
It’s Sunday morning. When I wake up, I unplug my phone and check for notifications. Out of an unfortunate habit, I open Snapchat. The dashboard of stories is filled with newly-loaded, unseen footage of the antics of friends and acquaintances on their nights out. Just another Sunday morning, right?
But as I watch the multitude of pictures and videos load, I feel my heart sink just a bit. I had spent my Saturday night watching a movie in my dorm. Honestly, I enjoyed it. I appreciated the time on my own to unwind after a long week. But seeing my old friends from home and new friends from school post their highlights of Saturday night, regret fills my stomach.
Even though I had enjoyed my night in the moment, I feel like I’m not doing enough. It feels as though I’m the only one who didn’t go out and have the time of her life.
Why does social media steal that inner peace from so many of us? We could be perfectly happy being on our own, and with one quick notification, it feels as though all of our friends are screaming into our heads “we’re having more fun than you!” And, most importantly, why do we keep coming back to it?
From my own experience, I find that there’s an almost addictive quality to the pain social media can cause us. It has become so common for many of us in their daily lives that its occurrence has become comfortable. Looking at social media can act as a guilty pleasure, almost like watching celebrities on reality television shows. Our own peers have become both the stunning models you would do anything to look like and the trainwreck socialites you can’t keep your eyes off of. But these aren’t celebrities, they’re even closer to us. They’re our friends, peers, and classmates. In a way, we have developed a celebrity-like attitude toward the people in our own daily lives. And in many ways, that’s the relationship that we have with so many people. But when social media is the only thing that keeps us together, can we even call it a relationship?
Sure, we all have friends that we see on social media that we are close enough with in real life to see through the facade they present online. In fact, the posts of our close friends often make us happy. But it’s the people we don’t know well enough to recognize that they are real people too, the ones we follow but haven’t actually spoken with, who affect us in this way. The people whose personalities we have learned almost exclusively from their online sharings are the ones who make us feel the worst.
Going into my freshman year of college, it felt that these people were everywhere. All of my social media feeds had been infected with the Incoming Boston College Fever and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I hadn’t met any of them in person, yet I felt like I knew them. I saw their friends, their boyfriends or girlfriends, their home lives, and their excitement for school. I couldn’t help but compare myself. How would I fit into this crowd of perfection that seemed to constitute my new school?
College students are among the heaviest of social media users. According to reports by the consumer insight service Experian Simmons, 98 percent of college-age young adults use social media. A survey of college students from UCLA showed that 27.2 percent of students spend more than six hours on social media every week. With anxiety now becoming the most prevalent mental health disorder among college students, this constant fear of not being good enough is easily aggravated by this constant social media use. College students, especially freshmen, are very susceptible to this anxiety. With so many new changes, from meeting new people, moving to a new place, and leaving your friends and family behind, these students have enough on their plate without the added pressure. I know firsthand that social media can cause us to feel like we are constantly falling behind our peers. Not getting things right, and having all of social media notice. These specifically cultivated images of seeming perfection in all areas of life causes each of us to fear our own inferiority. But the reality is, that seemingly perfect person in the photo feels exactly the same way when they scroll through their phones.
At the same time, there’s a thrill that’s just as addictive when you’re the one in the spotlight posting those hilarious videos from a night out or the totally-not-candid candid photo with your best friend. There’s nothing wrong with sharing these happy moments. But when we become more focused on the likes and comments than the joy these moments brought, the happiness is lost.
I can admit that I’m guilty of doing things just so I could post a picture or video later to prove my own confidence, which was, in fact, nonexistent. As I continue to wade through the treacherous waters of college, social media is becoming less important to me. I still use it, of course, especially to keep up with old friends. However, I post what I want now. Pictures of my favorite books or places that don’t get nearly as many likes as photos of myself with friends. After all, whether you like it is really all that matters.
So I leave you with this one piece of advice (from the internet, of course):
“Do more things that make you forget to look at your phone.”
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor