If I had to give a rough estimate, I would say I spend around two hours on my phone each day. A very large portion of that time is spent scrolling away on various social media outlets. That’s nearly two hours of liking pictures, tweeting and snapping away, nearly transfixed by the little device in my palm. That’s also nearly two hours of comparing my own life to everything that I see on my phone screen.
Disillusionment is defined as the condition of being defeated in expectation. It is experienced when something is portrayed in a way that elates our expectations, but when we actually come to know it, it falls just short of these hopes. I believe that the most prominent culprit of evoking a sense of disillusionment in us today is social media. We see how something seems for one person and automatically assume it will be like that for everyone. Commonly associated with this is the fear of missing out. If it’s not how we assumed it to be, are we at fault for not making the most of the experience? As we like and scroll and comment on social media pictures and posts, we merely see the most exciting and most picturesque aspects of people’s lives. We might even begin to wonder why our lives aren’t as exciting and picturesque. Someone is not likely to post a picture where they weren’t perfectly camera-ready, and you’re more likely to see a picture of how incredible someone looked at a party surrounded by a group of friends than what they looked like when they were writing a paper in the library or when they woke up this morning.
My first semester of college was a whirlwind of activity. Sports practices and schoolwork left little free time to be had, yet I still made time to check my feed. Each time I was met with the feeling that I was missing out on how much fun college was supposed to be. We all graduated high school under the impression that college was going to be the highlight of our lives. While I was catching up on sleep and studying for two exams at once, it seemed as though everyone else was making new friends overnight, surrounded by bright lights and solo cups. My disillusionment between the idea of what college was supposed to be and my less-exciting reality hit me hard as my close friends continued to have what appeared to be an absolute blast, and I began to feel like I was “doing college wrong”.
I firmly believe that no matter what people tell you about college, you will never be truly prepared for it until you have landed in your dorm room. Even then you may not be entirely prepared. It is so important to recognize that your experience will be what you make of it, no more, no less. Among the many preconceptions I had was the belief that I would have a ton of new best friends after week one and that there would always be something fun and exciting to do. This is not always the case. We all find our people, but it doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be stressful to worry about where we fit in. Nevertheless, things will fall into place, and you will make memories with really cool people. It is true that there will always be something to do at school, but more often than not, it may be a paper instead of a party. Being a college freshman also means learning to prioritize various aspects of our lives,. Sometimes you have to skip the party to study for the test, but sometimes the social event may serve as the well-deserved break you need. It’s all about balance. Developing some sort of social life is essential, yes, but that shouldn’t mean compromising academics.
Additionally, our social lives will all be defined differently. There are many other activities, aside from parties, that lead to the cultivation of new friendships and memorable moments. Intramural sports, spectating athletic events, taking a trip off campus to the nearby city, club activities and volunteer opportunities are various ways to get away from Netflix for a while and meet new people. I should also note that you may not automatically click with everyone you meet, and so forced friendships may just end up being wasted energy. You only get one shot at these four years, so you should be able to spend your free time in whatever way you enjoy the most, and with people whom you enjoy the most. Even if it may seem that everyone’s Friday nights look the same in pictures, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Furthermore, every college culture is different. Students at large state schools are not going to have the same experience as students at small private schools, and neither will they share the same daily life or party culture as Ivy League institutions. One is not better than the other, but all of them have so much to offer. However, when we get a taste of so many colleges from what our friends attending them are posting and sharing, it’s hard to not want what we don’t have.
Taking all of this into consideration, the main idea of all of this is that people will only post what they want you to see. You won’t be able to tell if they’re stressed out about biology or if they just spent more time doing a research report than they did sleeping. Everyone will face both highs and lows, and each person will define their version of fun differently. It’s not worth getting all worked up over worrying about whether or not you’re having as much fun as your friend across the country, because you both made a series of very different choices to place you at this exact point in your life. Keep a positive attitude and do things that make you happy while putting yourself first in the process. Don’t spend too much time stressing about your next “Insta-worthy” Friday night, and don’t let the disillusionment destroy your experience.