More Than What Meets the Profile Picture

Since beginning college last year, I have experienced many of the positives of social media. It is a great way to keep in touch with friends, as well as connect with new ones. Groups and messages are excellent ways to communicate with teams, clubs and classmates for both academic and extracurricular purposes. However, social media has always had a funny way of distorting reality.

A high school friend and I recently caught up and discussed a classmate of ours who had planned to transfer to a different university. Although I haven't kept in touch with this acquaintance, I follow her on social media and assumed she was happy with her college experience this far. In fact, I was under the impression that most of my friends and former classmates were content based on the constant updates I receive through my various social media accounts. Instagram pictures taken at parties, Facebook exchanges with new friends, tweets about strange collegiate encounters -- regardless of the social media channel, it is easy to view a window into a friend's life. Albeit, this window is not always accurate.

The problem with social media is that it only shows one side of someone's experience, and what is exposed is completely in the hands of the social media user. While they might frequently post pictures with "friends" at social gatherings, this friend may actually be struggling socially. Alternatively, a friend who rarely posts about their life online may be having more fun than the ones who frequently update their online status. While social media may seem to reveal and record one's happiness, its one-sidedness is misleading.

At the same time, the deceptive nature of social media also has the potential to mislead anyone who views these posts. Accurate or not, seeing friends post about their seemingly fun college experiences makes us question our own experiences. Is everyone having more fun than me? Am I not as well-adjusted as I thought? Social media provides the chance to constantly compare ourselves to our peers, causing self-doubt and a warped perspective.

While it is easier said than done, the only way to avoid being deceived is to not take social media too seriously, especially during these first few weeks of school. When used for their intended purposes, social media platforms are fun -- and helpful. Understanding the risk of inaccuracies online is necessary in order to enjoy one's own college experience, while putting it into perspective with one's friends and online community.