Reaching for the phone beside the pillow where it was left before he went to bed, the student turns off his alarm, scrolls the interfaces of society and puts his phone in his pocket to look back to throughout the day.
Playlist selected, headphones on, the student scrolls Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Social media is ingrained in the daily lives of Georgia State students, often spurring adverse effects in the minds of its users.
“I use social media far too often to compare myself to my significant others’ exes or just other girls who are prettier than I am per the normal beauty standards,” student Meyer Anne Hudson said. “I’m okay with posting for myself or scrolling through it without an issue, it’s just when I get in an insecure or anxious mood, social media makes it extremely easy to fall into that comparison trap.”
Hudson is not alone in her revelations with a “comparison trap.”
“Browsing social media often leaves me comparing my life and achievements to those of other people,” third-year student Cece Wilson said. “It is easy for me to feel that I have come up short next to what other people seem to possess.”
Though Wilson enjoys social media for staying up-to-date with the whereabouts of friends and family, she takes regular breaks from the platforms to cater to her “mental health routine.”
“Instagram only shows the best of peoples’ lives,” Morgan Carson, a first-year at Georgia State, said. “There’s also the issue of ‘influencer culture’ that pushes an idealized view of bodies, relationships, lives and more.”
“I have a lot of trouble with my image and self-confidence and often viewing so many attractive people and seeing the attention they receive really negatively impacts me,” student Romeo Cross said. “I could just unfollow people, but there’s something in my head that won’t let me.”
Likewise, while many have their disapproval of social media, they may find it hard to quit using the platforms.
“I know when to stop using it, but when I’m bored, that is the first thing I resort to,” student Yaffy Yakob said.
Another Georgia State student, Grace Gordon, also agrees that social media is a comparison trap, labeling her relationship with it “toxic.”
“Sometimes, it feels like grasping for validation that will never come [or] support you expect but never get,” Gordon said. “It’s hard to validate yourself when you expect hundreds of comments and likes, and that’s just not what you get all the time.”
Gordon noticed a shift in her perception of social media when she began posting her art.
“I try to not feed into the lack of feedback,” she said.
And like Wilson, Gordon has started to take a few days off of Instagram at a time in order to give her “brain a break.”
“I hate how dependent I am on [Instagram],” student Gabby Lopez said. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop comparing myself to others. Sometimes I think about deleting [it], but then the selfish part of me still wants to see what other people, even people I don’t consider my friends, are up to, and part of me still wants to seek strangers’ approval.”
In others’ lives, social media can be toxic in regards to content.
For second-year student Jasmine Nowicki, social media is a place of hate.
“People post articles to raise awareness,” said Nowicki. “And while it’s very important, it can affect my mental health when I’m just trying to see how my friends’ days are going.”
The importance of social media raises the stakes for others who find community on these platforms but spur a complicated relationship for them when accounting for their everyday life outside of the internet.
Student Ashton Franks uses different platforms in order to express himself toward family and to express himself towards friends.
“Being part of the LGBT community adds a whole level of what I can put out to the world,” said Franks.
Visibility can be an issue in and of itself.
“I felt like a flashlight was on me,” student Jas Florentino said, reflecting on their initial use of social media at a young age when on Tumblr.
“Lately, I’ve been cutting back on posting content and enjoying my privacy,” Georgia State student Adela Lopez said. “If it weren’t for my networks, I think my social media would have been deleted by now.”
Third-year English student Katie Burkholder agrees that mindfully balancing individual use of social media is beneficial for people’s mental health.
“[Social media] is a breeding ground for self-hatred,” said Burkholder. “Keeping private things private and [following] people that inspire joy, not envy, can help.”
Burkholder explained that the only effective remedy to avoid toxic self-comparison to others online is to avoid social media altogether.
Believing that “social media brings out the worst in humanity,” student Alina Basiuk does not think human culture can avoid using it.
Even though staying off of social media platforms would help, Basiuk said, “We can no longer collectively leave it alone because it became a part of business, advertising, promotions, everything really. We are way too deep into this mess.”
She sympathized with an early statement from the artist Andy Warhol reflecting on the future he anticipated, in which he expressed concerns that people will gain attention that quickly fades away, only for the cycle to repeat forever.
With influencer culture on the rise, the idea of sensationalism has spiraled in order to gain the instant gratification that comes from attention on social media posts.
“Everyone is always trying to spill ‘tea,’ but all I think we really need to do is pause and mind our own business,” Basiuk said.