Photo by Ava Freeman
In today’s digital world, it seems like almost everyone is a “friend of a friend” or connected in one way or another. From a young age, Generation Z has created their own digital print, which is hard to get away from. Prior to the creation of social media, college was an opportunity for young adults to start over, meet new people and form a new identity. But with apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, social media has hindered students’ opportunity to start fresh and get the full college experience.
Although going to college knowing close to no one is intimidating, it is an important milestone that prepares students for adulthood. It offers the opportunity to put yourself out there, without the security of constantly being surrounded by the high school friends you have known for years. This is a valuable experience to have, as being approachable and meeting new people is something that students will need to do in the future, whether they are moving somewhere new or starting a new job.
Nowadays some students will try to form their friend groups prior to arriving on campus with Facebook groups, Snapchat group chats and the app GroupMe. This deprives freshmen from the typical college experience of being able to start from scratch and meet new friends upon arrival. Additionally, students who choose not to use these methods of communication may feel out of touch or left out upon arriving at school, adding additional pressure to reach out to others early on.
Even without these methods of communication, social media has created a digital footprint for teens, making it difficult to get away from the past. With communication to anyone in the world right at your fingertips, it is common for false information and rumors to be spread. Going to college with a predetermined reputation is something no one wants, especially if it is not who you truly are. One of the great things about college is being able to get away from your former self and the inaccurate assumptions that were made about you; but with social media being an underlying constant, this is very challenging to do.
Although it is not something we would like to admit, many people will do “research” on other people prior to meeting them. This can include checking their Instagram page, viewing their Snapchat story or even asking mutual friends what they know about that person. This can be a toxic thing to do because it is impossible to get to know a person through what you see online or what rumors you have heard about them. It is important to not make initial judgments about people, despite the overwhelming urge, until you actually get the chance to meet in-person and get to know their true self.
In a college or university that is filled with young social-media-obsessed students, this issue of making assumptions about others is hard to get away from. This is especially problematic since someone’s appearance on social media is not always who they are. In some cases, users will try to display the best version of themselves and the perfect life they lead. In other cases, people are less active and treat social media as a fun place to share photos/videos and communicate with friends. Either way, the squares on an Instagram page can only say so much and will never tell the full story about a person.
Out of all the ways to meet new people, Facebook groups are one of the most popular methods to connect with prospective students. Oftentimes, students will post a collection of photos of themselves along with a short description and their social media handles as a way to meet friends and find a roommate.
Now, this does have some benefits: it offers a way to find students with similar interests and is an organized way for freshmen to come together and form connections. Nonetheless, while scrolling through these groups, it is clear that most of the descriptions are very similar; many start off by saying where they are from, mention a few interests and then talk about how they like to go out but still care about their studies. With many of these descriptions being close to identical, it is common for people to choose who they want to reach out to based on the photos, which then goes back to the issue of making assumptions about others from their appearance on social media.
While social media has some negative effects on college freshmen, it is essential to note that it is still totally okay to reach out to others and find friends that will be attending your college online. The most important thing is that you go into your college experience with an open mind and a positive attitude, which will make your next four years as memorable as possible!