Art by Madeline Duvall
It’s become a mindless routine for many during quarantine.
Wake up. Locate phone. Check social media — only to see others having the time of their lives, with birthday gatherings and Vegas getaways.
With numerous reports of how college students’ mental health have been declining throughout the pandemic, it is necessary for all students to do their part by considering how their social media posts can affect their peers’ mental health.
Although social media has granted many the ability to stay connected with their loved ones, it has also caused a sharp surge in depression and anxiety — especially among college students — according to ScienceDaily.
With the increase in social media usage, there has also been a growth of FOMO, the fear of missing out, as many students feel as if they’re missing out on the normal college experience, which their friends on other college campuses may have the privilege of experiencing.
While many students don’t expect to live a life equal to the Kardashians or other multimillionaires, it has become easier for students to compare themselves to those around them through the use of social media.
Orphan families may feel more anxious after taking notice of the sharp economic divide through their peers’ lavish photos. Isolated students, both domestic and international, may feel even more cut off after seeing posts of gatherings and celebrations, while others may start to think of themselves as less productive than those who brag about their efficiency on Instagram or Snapchat.
However, the biggest problem is the feelings of frustration and helplessness that arise in many college students as their peers proceed to senselessly normalize a nonchalant attitude regarding the pandemic. Social platforms have become a source of misinformation as students choose to wholly disregard social distancing and mask regulations by posting photos of themselves socializing with others.
Although the reality of the pandemic may not be at the forefront of most students’ minds when posting on social media, it should be.
Additionally, those who choose to break social distancing guidelines and share it on the internet should be prepared to deal with possible consequences.
There have been numerous instances of suspension — even expulsion — for students who have chosen to heedlessly upload photos and videos of their unlawful social gatherings. In September, CNBC revealed that the University of Missouri expelled two students and suspended three for violating COVID-19 rules.
This punishment may sound harsh to some, but it was rightfully enacted as these posts remain insensitive in light of the worsening pandemic and multiple global crises.
Although photos of social outings during the pandemic remain tasteless enough, students should also be mindful when uploading posts regarding humanitarian predicaments. Many of the related news stories can be traumatic and anxiety-provoking, such as the recent U.S. Capitol riot.
Although social media can be used to post and inform others of important news, college students need to be able to discern between truths and fabrications before posting in order to help their peers process the news in a reasonable fashion and prevent them from spiraling.
Overall, they have to be intentional of what they choose to share on social media while considering how one’s social media posts can negatively affect their peers’ mental health.
When utilized thoughtfully, social media can become an outlet for community and companionship amidst this pandemic.
While it may not be easy, publicly sharing personal struggles online proves to be more meaningful than an outdoor selfie, as posts that openly acknowledge personal concerns regarding the pandemic may help spark feelings of relatability amongst students rather than solitude. It communicates thoughtfulness and vulnerability — both of which the world lacks right now.
On the other hand, a social media detox may be a new necessary form of social distancing for those who currently perceive social media as a source of distress rather than comfort.
Without the constant notifications and distractions that social media provides, students are more likely to engage in new, worthwhile hobbies and preserve their mental health without focusing on the inequities existent in current society.
Most importantly, now is the ideal time to recognize the importance of solitude. Although isolation may have currently been vilified by the majority, it is necessary now more than ever in this media-driven world. It may be the perfect time for college students to take a break from Vegas Snapchat stories and birthday Instagram posts— for their own benefit and for that of their peers.
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