Entering the college environment in 2020 was a unique experience to say the least. During a time where students felt largely confined to their dorm room, social media became a drastically more prominent link to the outside world around them. As I reflect back on my first two years of college, I’ve identified some of the positive and negative effects of social media on my college life and perspective in an online world.
1.Improved face recognition:
Since I didn’t always have the opportunity to meet people face-to-face, I tried to make friends and connections by following my classmates on Instagram or Facebook. In my Zoom classes, I could associate names with faces easier than I would have been able to if I was meeting a full classroom of students all at once. When you spend so much time looking at people’s profiles and names, it’s easier to remember their names and faces.
2. Increased access to information:
I used a variety of social media platforms to thoroughly look into my peers’ backgrounds. When I wasn’t able to physically talk to someone in passing or in class, I relied on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to learn more about them. Simply seeing someone’s name in a GroupMe chat prompted me to do some research, and 15 minutes later, I knew about their hometown, where they’ve traveled, and what sports they played in high school.
3. Improved courage in social situations:
Having no other option but to reach out to classmates and peers through social media made me accustomed to speaking up in a variety of academic and social situations. I gained the confidence to advocate for myself and spark conversations with peers or professors. I’ve realized that introducing myself is not as scary as I once thought.
4. Newfound enjoyment in alone time:
Before college, I associated alone time with boredom; I perceived it negatively because it meant that I had nothing better to do with my time than relax in my room. Becoming a more avid social media user during the pandemic helped me appreciate alone time and find enjoyment in solidarity. Whether it was getting food or doing work, I no longer felt like I had to be surrounded by others at all times because I could easily contact others when I wanted.
1. Increased worrying:
Seeing people I knew posting on certain social media platforms made me doubt my own well-being in this new environment. I wondered how other people were creating full-fledged friend groups when I barely knew the people in my dorm hall. I thought, what were they doing to meet new people that I wasn’t?
2. Increased division:
The dreaded “Hey, I have some bad news…” text or DM became an extremely emotionally charged interaction. Every decision made regarding safety precautions during the pandemic was met with controversy and discussion. Similarly, every indication that someone you knew tested positive led to you racking your brain to calculate the last time you came into contact with them. By the time someone shared a positive test result or administration announced updates, you could find hundreds of polarizing opinions and disagreements about the next step to take.
3. Easier to hide:
Entering college, I expected less controversy when it came to group projects. However, people can hide themselves behind their mobile devices just as easily as they can make themselves noticeable. Several times, I dealt with group members who never viewed my messages in GroupMe, never showed up to discussion, and ignored any private chat messages.
Being a college student during the pandemic has had its fair share of challenges, but it has ultimately left me with a newfound sense of appreciation—for quality time, for social interaction, for technology. The lens through which we view daily life has drastically changed, and it is for us to decide whether this change is for better or worse. If we’ve proved one thing about ourselves in these past two years, it’s our ability for resilience.