Social media. I can’t think of anything else in my life that I absolutely hate yet engage with every single day. Upon reflection, it seems ridiculously destructive that I use and contribute to something I so strongly believe to be one of the primary causes of unhappiness in the modern world. Yet, at university, it’s a requirement to use it on a daily basis, and thus understanding people’s addiction becomes easy.
I have virtually nothing good to say about social media. I certainly think it’s the single biggest time waster there is. It can be emotionally draining, it’s absent-minded, and it has the ability to make us constantly feel bad about ourselves and our position in life. People argue, and rightly so, that social media can and does facilitate communication all over the globe, which is amazing. It’s wonderful that when my friends return home to far-flung countries we can still chat as if they were next to me. But does it facilitate connection? I’m less sure.
There is a key difference between communication and true connection, and social media creates a strange and unsettling paradox; it manages to both create unpleasant, envious, and sad feelings in people whilst turning down an ability to wholly connect to things. Honestly, what’s the selling point here?
Pretty soon after I realised how looking at social media made me feel, I deleted my Instagram account. I honestly would urge anyone else to do it. I felt much happier without the constant comparison of my body and life to the airbrushed perfection that I’ll never realistically achieve. After all, our generation is so competitive, do we really need to make additional and pointless comparisons and add unnecessary pressures? I’d challenge anyone to scroll through the “explore” page on Instagram and not feel inferior and unhappy at least once. Why are we doing this to ourselves and why is it increasingly popular?
I deleted all other forms of my social media as well, keeping only two: Snapchat, because it’s sillier and less insidious than Instagram and Twitter, and Facebook. Now, here’s the crux of my argument: although Facebook is somewhat less “aesthetic” than Instagram, it remains a breeding ground for comparison, online abuse, airbrushing reality, and so on. Even the adverts you see when scrolling through your news feed add to this effect. So why, in order to survive and have any form of social life at university, are we almost required to have Facebook, considering how unhappy it makes a lot of us? Every single event at this University has a Facebook page; I’m already a member of more group chats than I want to think about, and news and social happenings here are entirely governed by social media.
I really want to encourage universities that wish to make a conscious change to improve collective student mental health to think about the addictive nature and negative influence attached to a medium they seem to be making a requirement. I would personally love to delete my Facebook account – honestly, I really feel it would make a productive change in my life and add to my happiness. However, thanks to the emphasis placed on Facebook by the University and its students, I don’t feel able to for fear of missing out on hearing about what is going on here at any one time.
I’m pretty sure the “older generation” who grew up in an environment that wasn’t socially dictated by Facebook still describe university as the “best time of their life”, so clearly things still happened in a world without social media. There is so much stigma and pressure at university to enjoy every second of it – but maybe that would be easier without the constant source of misery that the university system itself makes necessary? I’ll likely be scorned as the typical opinions writer who moans about something universal and doesn’t really offer any productive solutions to change it here and honestly, maybe I am. Maybe Facebook is such an ingrained form of communication at university now that it’s too late.
If that is the case, then I think it’s a great loss. I personally never mind receiving emails (though I know they drive lots of people mad) and would much prefer to hear about events this way; and whatever happened to good old posters? I accept I may be fighting a lost cause here, but there’s so much about the modern world that is so inauthentic and competitively driven, and I personally believe this to be almost entirely the fault of the comparative nature of social media.
We know social media is a negative influence on our mental health, so isn’t it a bit ironic that Student Services has its own Facebook page? If you’re struggling at all with your mental health, I would really urge you to please consider thinking about reducing your screen time. There are so many more productive ways to procrastinate that might have the added benefit of adding something truly enriching to your life.