Social media dominate lives of students, but at what social, psychological cost?

Posted December 8, 2015


“Everyday the first thing I do when I wake up is go on my phone and scroll through Instagram and Facebook. It’s kind of scary that I start my day off needing to be connected to all these people fearing that I missed something when I was asleep.”

This is the life of University of Miami student Dylan Reich. Like so many other high school and college students around the world, social media have become a constant need in their lives.

A screenshot from a wealthy student's Instagram.

A screenshot from a wealthy student’s Instagram.

Social media have become a global phenomenon and have taken over our lives in today’s society. We have a persistent need to tweet, Instagram,

Snapchat and Facebook our day-to-day life in an attempt to get more likes and comments. Millennials’ and college students have become consumed with the virtual realities social media creates.

Social media are a major factor in the way college students conduct their lives, which is affecting them not only socially and psychologically but as it relates to their future endeavors in the job market. Social media are affecting how we view ourselves, the relationships we have and future ones to come.

One of the biggest problems faced with social media today is how easily accessible everything has become. Students are glued to their laptops, smart phones and tablets while in class and cannot tear themselves away from the constant feed from their social media outlets on a general basis.

Jan Hendrik Boehmer, an assistant professor of new media in the Journalism and Media Management Department at the University of Miami, said that social media seem to dominate students’ lives.

“Social media has certainly become an important part of many students’ lives. I think it has affected students both in positive and negative ways. Social media as a constantly updating news consumption tool can be a great way of following current events as well as allowing students to connect with their friends and family during the semester,” Boehmer stated. “On the other hand, students might be overly concerned with how they present themselves online and how to make everything look particularly nice when posting online.”

Rather than focus on the actual events happening in the present students are focusing on their social media realities that they have formed, in order to exude a certain persona. This is impacting the way students are interacting socially among each other.

University of Miami undergraduate Jess Greene reaffirmed this idea.

“People don’t go to restaurants or an event to enjoy being there, they go to check in, post a photo and let society know that they were there,” she observed.

The rise of social media has also impacted our English language, creating new acronyms and words such as “Brb” for “Be Right Back” and “Fomo” better known as “fear of missing out.”

Now that there is a way to constantly advertise whom you are with and what you are doing people can see how their lives compare to others. Boehmer touched on this issue.

“ There is an increased risk of becoming depressed when being constantly bombarded with the idealized images of your friends lives,” he stated. “ Students might feel that their lives fall short compared to what their friends are doing.

Social media are promoting students to over-analyze themselves because of the morphed world they believe in. Editing has become a huge aspect of social media. Filters and apps are allowing for pictures to be edited in all sorts of ways from making oneself skinnier, creating a flawless complexion, whitening your smile, all in the hopes of making the image more attractive and appealing to society.

A screenshot from Essena O'Neill.

A screenshot from Essena O’Neill.

Recently international Instagram sensation Essena O’Neill came out against social media and the fake reality behind it.

According to CNN, O’Neill posted photos that might lead some to believe she leads a perfect life but behind the scenes she said, she felt like a lost and lonely teenager. She wanted her followers and the world of social media to know that what you see on social media isn’t always true to life.

O’Neill went on to delete numerous photos on her Instagram account and replaced them with captioned photos describing what actually was going on behind the scenes to capture the images.

Her message was “ Social media is an illusion.”

She believed that the number of likes and followers she had correlated to how many people liked her. Her message is mirroring what’s going on in so many students’ lives today.

Social media are not only affecting students socially but psychologically as well. In today’s society the greater your online popularity the more superior you are. Students are altering the way they look just to appeal to friends and followers. This is promoting more self-criticism towards oneself and it is having a huge effect on the self-esteem of Millennials and students.

A number of University of Miami students believe that social media are a driving force of having social anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence issues.

Apps on a smart phone (Photo courtesy by Jason Howie).

Apps on a smart phone (Photo courtesy by Jason Howie).

Information has become limitless to obtain and students are being told to be very vigilant with the type of social media they are posting.

Samantha Haimes, associate director of Career Readiness for the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center said there can be problems.

“ While you can make everything you post on social media professional and make security settings tight, you cannot control what other people share about you over the Internet,” she stated. “Students today need to make sure that they are acting in a way that is true to themselves, yet, appropriate.”

She touches on the point that once something is on social media it will always be on social media.

“You do not want your social media accounts to become a misrepresentation of who you are and the brand you want others to know you for,” she said.

Social media are creating a culture of self-comparison. Comparing lifestyles, bodies, and relationships with others who display what looks like the perfect ideal life. Rather than live in the moment students are tucked behind their fake realities spending hours thinking of the perfect caption, filtering their photos and comparing themselves against every other social media user.