Social media ‘helps fuel expectations you should have time of your lives’

·1-min read
University of Cambridge graduation ceremony (PA Wire)
University of Cambridge graduation ceremony (PA Wire)

University students are under increasing pressure to show they are having the “time of their life” and many have unrealistic expectations of non-stop fun while studying, a mental health expert warned.

Dr Dominque Thompson, a GP and young people’s mental health expert, said the pressures that arise from the “performative nature” of social media are particularly powerful for university students.

She called on universities that rely on students using social media to communicate with staff to support their mental health, address the problem of “screen burnout”, and encourage more offline activities.

Dr Thompson said: “So often described as ‘the best years of your life’, the pressure to be seen to be making the most of your university experience, especially for freshers, can lead to students making harmful or negative comparisons between their lives and the lives of other students they see online. After a year of social isolation for many, there is huge potential for these feelings to be sharper than ever come September.”

Dr Thompson has published a student well-being guide for building better mental health at university, in partnership with websitemystudenthalls.com

She told the Standard: “Some students may be entering their university experience with unrealistic expectations.“

They might be expecting one long party or non-stop fun, particularly to make up for lost time in lockdown, and they may feel that they are ‘not doing it right’ when it isn’t.”

Dr Thompson said there was a surge in social media use during the pandemic and warned that it is “tiring and stressful” being constantly alert to ever-present cameras and the risk of being photographed.

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