Name: Ellie C.
Profession: College Student
Location: Ithaca, NY
"The anxiety I oftentimes feel can be transformed into a positive force — seeing similar goals achieved by others motivates me to get off my phone and nurture the passions that I aspire to master."
Meet Ellie - a college sophomore at Cornell University, in the thick of the Social Media craze. Living in a world where popularity is determined by likes, followers, and how curated your Instagram account is (or isn't), how does she resist seeking external acceptance and constant gratification from her peers? With friendships fluctuating more than the price of Bitcoin, what stability can a college student find amid the already existing stress factors of academia that flood day-to-day existence?
SMMMA: What do you feel most anxious about on Social Media?
Ellie: When scrolling through social media, I get most anxious about how I perceive others and how they perceive me. Social media often gives you the first impression of a person. I get anxious about making sure that the pictures I share are my idea of perfect.
SMMMA: How do you feel when you see other people succeed at what you are trying to achieve?
Ellie: I feel as though I should be doing more to achieve my goals instead of scrolling through social media watching other people do it. The anxiety I oftentimes feel can be transformed into a positive force — seeing similar goals achieved by others motivates me to get off my phone and nurture the passions that I aspire to master.
SMMMA: What helps you stop feeling anxious?
Ellie: I feel less anxious when I stop looking at other peoples social media pages or when I remind myself that most people are trying to portray a life they don’t have on social media. I take a step back and realize that it is absurd to judge something that doesn't really exist. Regardless of whether it's real or not - why do I even care to judge?
SMMMA: Anything else to add?
Ellie: Social media skews the way we perceive others. I could meet a person and think they’re cool and then the second I see a post from their social media that I don’t like, it changes my perspective towards them. If social media didn’t exist, I think people would be more open to each other and have stronger relationships.
College and high school students face challenges different than what I would have described in my teens as "Social Media Anxiety". That wasn't a thing growing up in the 90's. My extent of "Social Media" consisted of pre-set AIM dates, usually cancelled because Mom needed the phone line. When I needed to have "private" conversations, i'd buy a calling card and walk down to the phone booth. I was given the luxury of being myself, and whatever form of change that came along on a weekly (or daily) basis was safe from being documented and shared.
We easily label young people today as self-indulgent: "They're always taking selfies" — "All they care about is themselves" — "They're on their phones all day". Are they to blame for the nonstop ability to connect to these endless modes of communication? Maybe they don't like it either, but have adapted to the mediums of their times? We had AOL - they have Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter (and who knows what else). #perspective
"The freedom of honest expression that we were gifted pre-social media gives us the ability to remember the commonalities of human nature."
What would it be like to grow up in a time where every moment is being compared, scrutinized, shared, and ultimately either shamed or praised? We all live in that world now, but the freedom of honest expression that we were gifted pre-social media gives us the ability to remember the commonalities of human nature. We all experience varying degrees of sadness, loneliness, happiness, insecurity, anxiety, and whatever else crosses our day with sometimes overwhelming emotion - but maybe only by actively putting an end to the vicious cycle of comparison culture, can we give younger people the clarity to understand the power of the tool, use it in a constructive way, and no longer feel chained to something out of their control?