College is a wonderland, a place of freedom and void of worry, from the minute you step on campus — or at least that’s what popular culture has led us all to believe.

And that is not entirely false. College is great. It’s an environment where free expression and pursuit of passion are both encouraged and rewarded. But college is also challenging, especially at first, in ways that high school seniors are never told to prepare for. Academics aside, merely the adjustment to living on your own, sharing a bathroom with an entirely new group of people, is daunting.

I came to Madison from New Jersey, as the only student here from my graduating class, so trust me when I say college was a serious adjustment.

Though I was blessed with an outgoing, social floor and a roommate I got along with, the first few months on campus were tough. Finding my group of friends while balancing challenging classes and the pressures of living alone was a lot to deal with.

The hardest part about the adjustment, however, was the pervasive feeling that I was alone in suffering. Whenever I checked social media, every one of my friends from home looked so happy, and I wondered what was wrong with me, why I was the only one struggling.

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Of course this was not true. Many of my friends from home felt as I did — unsure of themselves at the beginning of college. I realized even my fellow students in Madison were homesick. But no one wanted to admit it, especially on social media.

Everyone posted on Instagram about adventures with new friends, not lonely nights in the library.

This fall, you won’t see Snapchat stories of kids spending Friday nights bored in the dorms, wondering why they didn’t get invited to any parties.

This doesn’t mean these things don’t happen.

Social media, at it’s core, is ego-feeding. Research finds that notifications actually cause a rush of dopamine in most people. Not enough to fulfill our emotional needs, but enough to bring us back each hour. The harm in this is obvious, as we begin to rely on the approval of others as a indicator of our own happiness. This commonplace issue, however, is compounded in college by the fact that you are on your own, and therefore vulnerable.

This is the real issue with social media. We only see the highlight reels of everyone else’s lives, then compare them to our personal bloopers, our own insecurities. It is no wonder people end up feeling worse about themselves the more time they spend on social media.

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I’m not telling you to delete your Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. Lord knows I never would. Just be cognizant of the issues they can exacerbate. The more conscious you are of the reality that accompanies persistent posters, the better you set yourself up for a calm mind.

Though social media apps were designed to help bring people together, they can make us feel isolated and alone. This effect however, can be minimized if you choose to not assign so much worth to a forgettable photo.

Being the master of your own life is exciting, and what college is about, and with that includes being the master of your own emotional wellbeing. That starts with being critical of menial pins and needles like constant social media intake.

Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in finance.