After committing to BC in May, I found myself drawn back to the social scene of Facebook. Sifting through endless 15 Facts About Me posts on the BC 2018 page, I constructed a paragraph that presented a quirky, witty, and approachable me. Naturally, I wanted to portray myself as the hippest girl on campus with my love of Netflix, passion for long runs, and total embrace of the “work hard, play hard” motto. After realizing I was creating an eHarmony profile, I deleted my draft and stepped away from the realm of “speed friending.”
With the advent of social media, establishing friends in the big college pond begins long before any student steps on campus in the fall. Students send flurries of friend requests and messages to prospective roommates, study buddies, and intramural teammates. These connections may help with the transition to school, but I find fault in this approach to the college experience. An American Academy of Pediatrics study showed that young adults demonstrate increased signs of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem with continued use of social media sites. We convince ourselves that perfect first impressions are the norm and can be conveyed through a single Facebook or Instagram post. Judging others as well as ourselves through social media is a natural but unhealthy temptation.
When faced with this pressure for perfection, many students default to a system of snap-judgments. We may disregard the names of our floor mates in favor of classifying them by one trait we have picked up on. There is the academic who your friends suspect moved into the 4th floor of O’Neil by now, the jock that never leaves without his white Under Armour backpack, and the boy from last weekend who never fails to give the BC look away. In a few short weeks, we already feel as though we have a clear understanding of our new classmates. But do we ever question whether we have formed a fair opinion of them?
As we continue to meet new people, we subconsciously develop our own fear of being judged. There is a reconstruction of the self we have built over the past eighteen or more years and promote a new, edited version. (Cue the whitewash of college Facebook group posts we all know, love, and cringe to reread). It becomes a meticulous process to select what tweets will get enough favorites and which Yaks will get the most “ups.” Using the filters of social media to appear athletic, academically competent, and perpetually happy serves as the norm. An arbitrary mold of the perfect Boston College student and the qualities associated with social acceptance is set. According to a Flinders University study, this behavior dramatically reduces confidence and self-image. Rather than continuously perpetuating this vicious cycle, it is essential to question the innate temptation to trust first impressions. The truth is, relying on our own snap judgments pressures to look and act perfect at every moment.
As Boston College students, we are often reminded that the next four years present a chance for each of us to discover our own “authentic self.” This opportunity challenges us to remove notions about stereotypes and investigate ourselves deeply and freely. Providing a more open forum that enables every person to do his own version of soul searching should be a priority (even if it does involve getting late night on the daily and avoiding the Plex like the plague.) It is vital to look beyond the first impressions perceived from an awkward interaction on the floor or an embarrassing Facebook post. The BC community must aim to rise above the fault of snap-judgments.