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Oct 25 2015
by Natalee Gustin

Social Media: Your Worst Enemy When You're Sad

By Natalee Gustin - Oct 25 2015
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Social media is an incredible privilege for our generation. In just a few clicks, we are able to stay in touch with the people in our lives. We can easily see what our friends and family are up to, get updates at all times, check out what is happening around us and send a messages at the push of a button. However, staying connected can be a double-edged sword. Being freshmen, it is easy to have some lonely times. How could it not be? We’re transplanted to a new place, away from our loved ones, and despite the thousands of students, the huge campus makes feeling alone inevitable. Taking a look through social media feeds is a common way to pass time and bust boredom, but on many occasions, that boredom stems from loneliness and leads to bad moods. I’ve learned in my first couple weeks at school, that while social media can be fun, it can often be harmful as well. In my experience, I’ve turned to mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for a distraction and a way to pass time, but surprise—that habit only makes me more bored and lonely, with an nice addition of sadness. Social media makes us compare our lives to the picture perfect lives of others, so gazing at old friends having new adventures, flawless models and people making memories, only makes me feel more glum while I’m sitting on my futon feasting on Ramen and tearing up at episodes of The Office.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this sometimes—my roommate just said to me, “Last night, I saw a whole bunch of pictures of people at a party while I was stuck inside doing my Chem. homework and I hated everything.” Without us even knowing it’s happening, social media gives us the wretched “feeling of missing out” or, FOMO. It’s real and it’s no fun. A study researching the effects of Facebook on our moods from the University of Michigan found that the website often causes users to feel blue. Co-author of the study, John Jonides says, “When you're on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison—you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook”. It is important to remember that everyone romanticizes their lives on social media and that everything isn’t as glamorous as our Instagram accounts might lead us to believe. It’s easy to make a mediocre night look like the best night ever with the help of some Instagram filters, emojis and an excitedly written caption. There is a whole life that isn’t documented and spread to the world; no one posts the one selfie that their hair looks bad in and you don’t see people sharing images of their calm Friday nights in.

Remember that it’s OK (and extremely important) to have alone time, but keep yourself in check so that your alone time is healthy and not destructive. Also, keep in mind that everyone feels lonely at times, so reach out to others so you can be social together. Next time you’re feeling bored or lonely, don’t turn to your phone. Here are a few ideas to keep you entertained and make better use of your free time than scrolling through social media:

1. Get lost in a good book. 

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Indulging in a new book or even an old favorite that you’ve re-read a hundred times helps you to stay calm and keeps you busy in the best way. Getting lost in a world of fiction is an escape anytime and anywhere and it’s a healthy alternative to the virtual world inside your phone. I promise you, reading a novel for an hour is way more entertaining than an hour of your Twitter feed.

2. Get some exercise. 

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We all have busy schedules, but instead of procrastinating writing your next essay by exploring the depths of Instagram, take a trip to the gym. Physical exercise is proven to boost your mood, keeping you happier and healthier. Your form of exercise doesn’t have to be sprinting laps around the track, either; invite someone from down the hall to go for a power walk or get a group together to play volleyball—anything to distract you from your phone while getting your heart rate up.

3. Explore campus. 

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There’s a big, beautiful place to get to know right outside your door! On your trek around campus, you’ll find your new favorite study spot and interesting places to introduce to your friends. Leave your phone in your room and just live in the moment.

4. Host a movie night. 

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Invite some people from your hall that you’ve been wanting to get to know better, pop some popcorn, and have a movie marathon! This is a great way to bust boredom and bond with the people around you.

5. Have a dance party. 

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Blast your favorite music and jam out. Nothing feels better than jumping around to old Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears songs, so sing loud and proud and dance like no one’s watching.

Lead Image Credit: Gilles Lambert

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Natalee Gustin - University of Minnesota Twin Cities

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