November 8, 2023, by UoN School of English

Comparison really is the thief of joy: The dangers of comparing your university experience to others

After a long day of university seminars and lectures, you find yourself back in your dorm room, procrastinating on that looming assignment by scrolling endlessly through Instagram. As you look through curated stories and posts of your friends’ university experiences, you’re bombarded with a visual feast: endless parties, newfound friendships, perfectly decorated rooms, productive study sessions, and wild club nights. The escape from reality is undeniably nice but the overbearing sensation that you’re somehow falling behind is bound to creep in.

Our constant exposure to these seemingly perfect snapshots of other people’s university lives subtly robs us of a true understanding of the university experience. Social media doesn’t just trigger comparisons; it outright compels us to engage in them. These comparisons aren’t just harmful but can be truly detrimental to our mental health. What it cruelly omits are the raw realities we all face – the relentless deadlines, the bouts of homesickness, and the personal struggles that are an intrinsic part of the journey.

So, how can we break free from the comparison trap and appreciate the authenticity of our own university journey?

I want to begin with a simple yet crucial reminder: social media is not representative of a person’s real-life experiences. The posts forced onto our feed are unrealistic, presenting only the best bits of someone’s university life. The people you follow and idolise are also navigating through the ups and downs of university. Behind the screen, everyone grapples with their own challenges, doubts, and fears, just like you.

You are bound to have heard this age-old saying that ‘social media isn’t real life’. Yet as I’ve discovered in my own experience, it’s easy to get drawn into a fantasy of perfection. There’s comfort to be found indulging in the idea that our lives can be like the flawless ones we see online. But I urge you to shift your perspective and find beauty not only in your triumphs but in the challenges that shape your university experience. Freeing yourself of the pressures to perform or conform to unrealistic standards allows you to fully experience an authentic time at university.

Some more practical advice I can offer is to set boundaries with your social media use.

It’s important to remember that what’s presented online rarely mirrors the complexities of life. To reacquaint ourselves with genuine experiences we must get offline and back into the real world around us. Doing so will hopefully allow us to more greatly appreciate our university journey without the weight of social media expectations.

And finally, I wanted to assure you that you are not alone in your feelings of jealousy and comparison. Opening up about these struggles and realising they are universally experienced can be remarkably liberating. As I’ve learnt through personal experience, once I shared my challenges with friends, no matter how perfect I perceived their lives to be they too had their own struggles. Creating this discourse amongst friends has unearthed a truer representation of what the university experience really is. Without fallacy of perfectionism, we can allow ourselves to embrace the authenticity of our personal experiences and revel in the beauty of its ups and downs.

– Ella Dooley, 3rd Year BA English with Creative Writing

Posted in Student WordsTips/Advice/Guidance