We’re all guilty of it: the weekend Snap Stories, the excessive Instas, the must-have freshmen year Facebook album, you name it. Social media has become central to representing the college experience. And the extent of social media’s ubiquity in campus social life makes it hard to not fall into its trap, no matter how you feel about it and its various forms.

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This phenomenon is particularly pronounced amongst freshmen, for whom the struggle to adjust to a new environment and the pressure to appear happy and well-adjusted are certainly tied. Scroll through practically any freshman girl’s Facebook or Instagram account, and you’ll probably find pictures of girls repping their school’s apparel at last weekend’s game day, self-timer group shots, and saved Snapchat stories with the caption “other half.” But talk to your high school and camp friends about their college transition, and you’ll find that someone is usually stressed about not being BFFs with her roommate or feeling lost without a core friend group. While totally valid, these worries and insecurities are all rooted in one omnipresent force of our generation: social media.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of social media. If you only know me through my social media presence, you’ll likely think I’m having the sickest time ever and that I’m so obsessed with my new school. But while I love Cornell so far, my college transition–as with everything in life–has not always been picture perfect, and it certainly doesn’t always feel the same way as it looks on social media. While social media is definitely a great tool for staying in touch with far away friends and showing them what you’re up to, it also projects a false perception that you’re already completely settled in–and makes it harder for those struggling to do so to reach out for help. I mean, c’mon, we’ve only been here a month!

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For most of us coming into college, the prospect of making friends constituted a major part of our anxiety. If you’re like me, the friends you had in high school were people you had been friends with for years, some for most of your life; no matter how easy or hard it is for you to make friends, it’s going to take longer than a month to build those kinds of relationships. I love the friends I’ve made so far, but these friendships aren’t the same as the ones I shared with my high school and camp friends–at least not yet.  How could I possibly be as close with someone I’ve known for a month compared to someone I’ve known for 13 years?

This is normalcy. It’s unnatural to have a solidified group of friends already. The beginning of freshman year is about meeting and connecting with as many new people as possible. While the stability of a group would be comforting as we transition from high school to college, it takes away from the excitement of this transformative time in our lives. Although it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling as though you’re lagging behind compared to your friends’ college experiences, remember that Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook tell only a small part of the story.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Kate,
    I totally agree that people live out their lives in this way and that we need to change it. There is no reason everyone should feel so pressured, which goes both for someone who feels they need to promote themselves in a certain way on social media, as well as for someone who feels pressure to act in real life according to the expectations set by others on the same media. It is time for our students to be open and honest with each other about the college transition, and everything in life. There is no reason someone should have to walk out of an exam feeling horrible because everyone else said, “that was so easy,” even when they thought it was hard too. There is no reason we should let the false persona online dictate our actions.
    That’s why organizations like Cornell Reflect are coming to campus. Cornell Reflect is a chapter of the Reflect Organization, a non-profit dedicated to the de-stigmatization of students caring for their mental health. The club meets once a month, provides free dinner, and gives students the opportunity and the outlet to speak in a completely open and honest way. Everything is student-run and student-facilitated, and all Cornell students are welcome. I implore you and all your readers who are experiencing the same phenomenon you discussed – a real and serious issue that contributes tremendously to the college mental health crisis – to check out the Cornell Reflect meeting.

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