Why social media screwed up my college experience

Just like many other college students, I am also an avid user of Instagram and other social networking apps. Despite piles of papers and readings and lab reports, I find the time, at least once per day, to scroll through each media platform as much as I can. The one that seems to always make me feel my worst has got to be Instagram.

The angled and wanna-be artsy food photos are some of my favorites

Instagram in general is just filled with pictures that people (and myself, I’ll admit it) post practically bragging about the awesome fro-yo they just grabbed, or their amazing outfit they put together (which probably also costed them an arm or a leg). This is all fine and dandy for a high school aged person, or even any college student on a break. However, when your currently enrolled in anywhere from fourteen to nineteen credits and spend just about your entire weekend hunched over a book, these images your friends post become something larger than just an image. They start to really tare you down mentally.

The odds are that your high school friends for the most part wound up at a different college than you. So, you both are having completely separate college experiences. This happened for me. A friend of mine attended a small state school, while I attended one of the largest schools in the country (student population wise). Coming into college, I had this idea put into my mind by movies and older friends of what college would be like. Going to class if I didn’t feel like sleeping in, going out Thursday, Friday AND Saturday nights, going to football games, getting dressed up for classes or a night out on the town and having so many friends all the while managing to pass all of my classes with flying colors. In my first semester, I only managed two things on that list of going to football games and occasionally skipping class and even then I learned that doing so would not cut it in the future. I needed to learn to adjust my time from having fun, to getting down to business and getting my schoolwork done first. After all, school is pretty damn expensive.

Once I settled into this new routine, Instagram posts began to really claw at me. The pictures my friends posted of all their new friends made me feel like I hadn’t met anyone in college, even though I had. the pictures they posted of their girl friends all dressed up for a Friday night party had me wishing I had taken a study break and gone out too, only I know I wouldn’t have been anywhere near the mindset needed to study once I would have gotten back. Their pictures at sporting games looking cute in their school colors made me envious that they got to sit in the student section and enjoy all the cheers and the general ambiance while I was stuck working the game in order to keep my work study in tact. My life was a constant go go go which I was used to in high school, but even then I was able to have a social life. In college, if you’re taking a full schedule, you work, and you want to actually do very well in your classes, you don’t have much of a social life. In case I hadn’t realized this already, I could always count on my daily Instagram checks to reassure me that other people were having the time of their lives at college and hardly studying at all and passing their classes, while I was sitting hunched over textbooks all day everyday still struggling to do well in classes.

I let this get to me for a year and a half of college. Finally, in the winter of my Sophomore year of college, I read the story of a girl named Madison Holleran who looked like she had the perfect life on social media. It wasn’t until her suicide that her friends learned how flawed her college experience was in her mind compared to the experiences her friends where having elsewhere. Some of her friends had admitted to her that even though their Instagram pictures looked like they were having the time of their lives, they still felt like they didn’t have a lot of friends or didn’t get to go out a lot, etc.

If you’re someone like I used to be, someone who feels like their college experience isn’t all fun and games like everyone else’s appears to be. If because of this, it starts getting to you and makes you feel lonely and gloomy, just know there are a whole lot of people just like you. Instagram posts aren’t always what they seem to be. We can make our lives look so much different with a square picture that’s been edited and airbrushed and slapped with some well thought out caption posted online. That doesn’t define our lives or our experiences. Enjoy the moments you have away from the books. You can capture it in a picture if you want, but you don’t have to share it with the world. Your life is greater than the things you post on any social media platforms anyways. Yes, there will always be the people who feel the need to post what we believe is every detail of their lives on social media, but even these people don’t share the whole story. Remember that and try not to let someones ‘Instagram Perfect’ lifestyle cause you to think less of your own. It’s your life, make of it what you want.

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