Technology is incorporated into our everyday lives, with endless amounts of information at our fingertips. College students use it for just about everything, from keeping up-to-date with classes on Canvas to staying connected with friends during a global pandemic.
According to a 2019 study from Pew Research Center, about 74% of U.S. adults with some college education use at least one social media site a day, with 73% of U.S. adults using YouTube, followed closely by Facebook. Instagram came in as the third most-used social media site, with 37% of U.S. adults checking in daily.
In a 2020 series on how Generation Z uses technology, The New York Times reported that social media provides an important social outlet for college students to share key moments from midterm stress to concerns about climate change.
Building boundaries with social media can also help students maintain healthy relationships while staying connected to others, according to counseling psychologist Dione Laguana, clinical director at Northwest Therapy Group in Washington state.
But social media can also challenge emotions, Laguana said, and building healthy relationships with social media can be beneficial no matter the user preference of how they stay socially connected.
Salt Lake Community College student Monyka Chheng, a communication major, uses social media to stay in touch with family more than a thousand miles away or friends she has not met recently due to the current pandemic.
“I know it is toxic, and there are good and bad parts of it,” Chheng said. “What brings me joy about social media is being able to stay updated with family and friends to see where they are at in life especially with my family in Cambodia. I get to see what they are doing and how different their way of life is.”
However, the relationship with these platforms can also harm mental health, and setting boundaries is important, warns Laguana.
“One of the beauties of social media is that you have some control over the content you are seeing,” Laguana said. “Being very aware of the time you are spending on social media and being very intentional when choosing to pick up your devices to log on. We need to be aware of the content we are viewing and how it affects our mood.”
Laguana advised paying attention to the amount of time spent on social media and avoiding mindless scrolling. Control of the environment, she said, lies with the user.
Kyleen Buckner, SLCC biology major, said she uses social media to connect with friends through gaming and finding inspiration through their posts.
“A friend posted a drawing that looked really awesome,” Buckner said. “I love seeing my friend’s art. It’s encouraging to see, because my friend recently went through a breakup and it was her first art piece.”
As a game moderator, Buckner also said she is cautious in how she engages.
“On Facebook, you can surround yourself with friends, and at the same time your friends might say things you don’t agree with. Sometimes it is filled with a lot of uncomfortable things, but you can selectively block them,” she explained.