It is no secret that college students today are facing a multitude of expectations and pressures to live up to certain standards, both academically and socially. With this in mind, one should wonder, from where do these influences stem? In a growing society such as we have, it seems nearly impossible to escape the ever-expanding platforms of media – social media, in specific. Everyone seems to be connected to each other in some way, shape, or form. In the past, these opportunities seemed inconceivable; however, now there are virtually no barriers to this means of unity. Whether completing an assignment, scrolling through Twitter, or watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead on Netflix, college students are constantly browsing the web (more than six hours a week, in fact). Media has evolved in innumerable aspects; to the point where it’s viable to experience all of your social interaction without even having to leave your dorm room. It has become a staple of the American college experience.
It seems that the main objective of social networking is to provide users with the means to be connected with everyone, everywhere, all the time. However, the recent spike in mental illness in college students is proving that this may be too much of a good thing. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the surreality of our newly humanized social advancements, but along with this comes severe psychological consequences. The overconsumption of social media in college students creates unrealistic expectations and patterns of unhealthy thinking habits that promote illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and an overall poorer mental health.
Students of this generation are beginning to feel more concerned with the flawless Instagram profiles of their peers, and less with their own psychological well-being. This overwhelming sense of hyper-connectivity is exhausting, and the endless choices and opportunities millennials face have proven to be catastrophic. Instead of merely “checking in”, students are now glued to their phones, plagued by the fear that they are constantly missing out on something. These habits reinforce an uninterrupted cycle of striving to have the ‘most perfect’ life. Social media not only fuels, but fosters an outlet for comparison of all sorts. Instead of practicing mindfulness, we learn to internalize our problems and “keep quiet” because it’s not OK to not be OK. Yet, people continuously wonder why the epidemic of mental illness is sweeping through Generation Y. We need answers.
Online therapy website, Talkspace, celebrated the launch of their new “social media dependency” program by installing a 30-foot funhouse mirror in the middle of New York City. Passersby were encouraged to #ReflectReality and see how social media distorts self-perception. Take a look.