Shaw Wellness Institute Hosts Brown Bag to Discuss the Effects of Social Media on Relationships

Lucy Feidleson, Maroon-News Staff

The Shaw Wellness Institute hosted a Brown Bag event to discuss the impact of social media on friendships, especially those that are formed before and during college on Thursday, April 18. This year, Shaw has scheduled each of the eight months of school to be dedicated to one of the eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual. At Colgate, April is dedicated to social wellness.

Facilitators Vicki Coates, Shaw Wellness Program Coordinator, and first-year Bailey Bennett, Shaw Wellness Ambassador, aimed to spark a conversation regarding our social media use so that the Colgate community could learn how to best cultivate relationships.

“We want to make it very clear that we are not against social media,” Coates said.

Coates and the Shaw Wellness Institute understand that social media does exists and will continue to exist in the future. They said that we need to acknowledge social media’s implications in order interact with it healthily and effectively.

According to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, humans can only maintain about 150 meaningful relationships at a time. Social media, however, creates an illusion that that number is much greater (think: Facebook friends and Instagram followers). Although we may have more “friendships,” many of these friendships are shallow at best.

Coates and Bennett urged people to think of social media as supplementary. Relationships must be maintained both on and offline.

“It’s not enough to just like a status or comment on a picture, you need to go beyond that…It’s really about taking it to that next level and that next step after you’ve interacted with someone through social media,” Coates said.

Coates said face-to-face contact and phone calls, in addition to meme exchanges and Twitter reposts, are essential for well-rounded and profound friendships.

The discussion also highlighted social media’s ability to impact one’s sense of self. Often, we judge our self worth based on someone else’s feed. Most people in the room raised their hand when asked if they have ever felt worse after looking through social media.

“It’s all about reframing your automatic perceptions. Just because someone looks like [they are] having the best time of their life, doesn’t mean they are,” Coates said. “Everyone struggles, but no one posts their struggles.”

Director of the Shaw Well- ness Institute Katie Griffes explained the problem with what students do decide to post.

“No one has ever posted a picture of them crying in their dorm room saying they’re homesick,” Griffes said.

The absence of negative content implies happiness, which causes viewers to feel insecure and disproportionately unhappy; however, this appearance of perfection is artificial and often contrived (think: staged “candid” pictures), Griffes explained. First-year and member of the Men’s Track Team Johna Joseph admitted participating in the false reality that social media perpetuates.

“I mostly post running videos…I lose too, but [my followers] don’t know that,” Joseph said.

Coates and Griffes said another clear implication of social media is our inability to live in the moment. Bennett quoted rapper Drake: “I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome/Then she finally got to Rome/And all she did was post pictures for people at home.”

Social media users see their world from behind a phone screen, too busy focusing on other people’s views and validation instead of experiencing it themselves. “Pics or it didn’t happen,” a phrase we all know too well, reinforces our habit of prioritizing our impression on others instead of the world’s impression on us, the Brown Bag leaders said.

Contact Lucy Feidelson at [email protected]