Stay away from Snapchat if you want to enjoy college
I understand need for social media but darker side is something I did not sign up for
Facebook was introduced to me by my American housemate nine years ago
Nine years ago I packed my bags and moved out of home for the first time, and went to Limerick to study English and new media. I was excited about what lay ahead and looking back now, by no means did it disappoint.
I didn’t have an iPhone. My trusted piece of technology was a Blackberry. Social media was a bit of an unknown quantity. I had never bought into the whole Bebo craze when in secondary school. In fact, out of the 19 people I did my Leaving Cert with, I can’t think of one of us who did.
Facebook was introduced to me by my American housemate. A girl from Washington DC who had come to study in Ireland. One of the first things she asked me was could she “add me as a friend” on Facebook? She was astonished when I told her I didn’t have an account.
Fast forward nine years, and next week I will embark on a new college experience at UCD studying a part-time MA in politics and international relations.
Selecting my modules two weeks ago, I saw a new one was being offered: ‘The Geopolitics of Brexit’. Just as social media has evolved to deal with the changing political landscape we live in, so too have college courses.
In particular, social media has changed the way in which we look at the world and tell our news. It’s also changed college life and perhaps for the worst.
From Snapchat to Instagram, documenting your college life has never been easier. Online dating apps mean there’s no need to leave the comfort of your student accommodation to arrange a date. It’s just a click away.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a consumer of social media and have been guilty of one too many “check-ins” in my time.
Just ask any of my college friends and they will tell you I was always at hand with a digital camera, before the phone took over, to document our college nights, some of which we would now rather forget.
I understand the need for social media and have seen the fun side to it. But the darker side is something that I did not sign up for nine years ago.
In recent months, I have fallen out of love with certain aspects of how we use social media. I can only imagine the pressure it creates for students nowadays.
It was once a place where you could upload a photo of your friends and watch the “likes” and nice comments, but now it’s a place where we go to criticise and intentionally cause to hurt others.
It’s a place to attack other people and leave nasty comments, and this can be very damaging at a time when students are finding their feet in college. Nasty comments on social media can have a devastating effect on people.
Recording of our every move through a Snapchat or Instagram story can lead to heightened jealousy amongst peers.
Whether intentional or not, looking at other people’s lives makes some people feel hard done by. Instead of getting up and taking action, they prefer to sit at home behind a screen and criticise.
One of my friends says he is considering deleting his Facebook account as it no longer seemed relevant. When I agreed, most people were surprised.
As we sat around discussing this, I wondered if I had been immersed in my smartphone or Instagram while in college would I ever have become friends with these people.
When I first started college in 2008, I’d make friends the old fashioned way by talking to people. This included knocking on my neighbours’ door across the hall in my student accommodation.
The friends I made in college nine years ago are now my best friends and in many ways extended family members. In times of crisis it’s them you can turn to, not the fickle life of an Instagram or Snapchat story.
So to the class of 2017, my advice is to put the phone down and invite the neighbours over for a cup of tea and you never know, Home And Away might be on. That’s how I made my college friends.