The summer before the first semester of my freshman year, all I could think about was how excited I was to begin this new chapter in my life. Everyone had nothing but positive things to say about USC and Los Angeles, and it did not even cross my mind that I might have adjustment issues in college. After the excitement of the first few weeks of college wore off, anxiety and homesickness gripped me, and all I could think about was how much fun it looked like my friends were having at their various colleges via social media. I felt miserable, completely overwhelmed by my classes, trying to adjust to life in a new city and missing my hometown in the Midwest, and as though I had no niche in the large and diverse dynamic of USC’s student population. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, my friends seemed to have a plethora of close friends, and I wondered why I wasn’t having the same experiences as they were. While my friends were out at parties on a Friday night, I was trying to keep up with my reading for my 19th century literature class. I remember texting my best friend from high school, venting all of my issues I was having to her, and she told me she was going through the exact same thing. Then, I wondered to myself: Why did her life look so perfect on social media?
Something I have learned in college is how unrealistic social media depicts one’s life. While this seems like an obvious statement, it was something that never really crossed my mind in high school: People do not want to be genuine with their lives on social media. In a sense, social media is an art form in which people compete to be perfect, and it is through likes that they gain this sense of validation. The positive feedback of likes perpetuates a negative cycle of trying to emulate this unrealistic image of yourself to your friends. I am guilty of doing the exact same thing on my own Instagram page, but the ironic thing is that I was blissfully unaware of it. And so was my best friend. It was my first semester of college when I really became aware of how my social media presence could be so toxic because of how much it negatively affected my mental health. It is so easy to take what is on social media seriously, but it was my first semester of college when I took a step back and realized that what I see on Instagram does not capture a person’s true emotions or quality of life.
Ever since this interaction with my best friend, I have made more of an effort to be more genuine on social media and turn my presence into something to which people can actually relate. I have also learned not to take everything so seriously, and I now understand that I am not the only one having a rough time figuring college out even if it seems like I am on a superficial level. All in all, I have learned that perfection is unattainable, and the way to find true happiness in times of instability or crisis is to take a deep breath and accept that things will improve with time. Freshman year of college can be a mess in a lot of ways, but my advice to everyone is to remember that it is okay not to be okay during this transitional period in our lives.
Vineet Chauhan is a freshman majoring in economics and English. His column, The Genuine Freshman, runs every week on Tuesday.