Chicago College Students: 6 Ways Social Media Adds Stress

chicago college students stress

College Stress in Chicago

 By Tyler Fortman, PhD

Are you attending college right now in Chicago? Feeling a bit stressed out? If so you are not alone! College can be one of the most stressful times of your life. If you’re a current student, you probably already know this. And it doesn’t help that you happen to live in one of the most stress producing cities in America.

Sure, there is probably more reading, studying, and rehearsing than you’ve ever done before, but that’s not all. College students face separation from their families and high school friends, learning a new environment, and living with roommates – not to mention paying for tuition, fees, books, food, a place to live and social activities. It’s not surprising that college students are more stressed than ever!

If you are like a lot of students attending one of Chicago’s many universities, you likely use social media a chillax and get your fun on. But are you unintentionally adding more stress and anxiety to your life? The answer is – maybe!

Social Media and Stress

To keep it real, social media is a more normal part of people’s lives now than ever, especially for college students. In fact, it was a college kid that developed Facebook (a site that used to require users have a “.edu” email address).

The connection between college and social media isn’t going away. It’s an outlet to meet new people, say “hi” in a less intimidating way, invite people to events, and follow what others are doing.

That’s all fine and dandy but for some students, engaging in social media can have an “Alice in Wonderland” effect, causing some students to feel like they are looking through the window of world they can’t identify with. Because of the very human need to “belong”, the end result can mean feeling disconnected – resulting in stress. Throw in a pinch of sadness and worries over your body image and things can deteriorate very fast!

I’m not saying you should delete your accounts. I am saying there are six specific ways those social media apps may be adding to your stress load. Check it out:


1. Game of comparisons

Do you carefully manage almost everything you put on social media? If so, that’s called filtering. Okay, filters themselves don’t cause stress. They just distort reality. Filters and careful selection of what to post can create a false impression of the world and your peer’s lives.

When you compare yourself to others via social media, which you are bound to do if you are a human, your self-esteem can be lessened if it seems like your life isn’t as exciting as theirs. If you’ve ever opened those social media apps and closed them feeling worse about yourself, you may have just fallen victim to playing a game of comparisons. As with any game, there is always a winner and – you guessed it – a loser. Fun stuff, huh?

2. Increased loneliness

You probably spend more time on social media when your friends aren’t around. I’d bet it’s hard to get past the first screen without seeing your friends, or other people’s friends, hanging out. This can make you feel lonely or even isolated from others.

Brene’ Brown, author of Daring Greatly says that “social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends, when in reality, if we have 1 or 2 really good friends, we are lucky.” Can you relate?

3. Privacy Please

Other people post about you too! Sometimes that’s great, sometimes it’s not. Other people’s posts impact who knows what about your life. If you’ve ever gotten a call from mom asking what you were doing with that beer or a text from your boyfriend asking why you took a picture with “that guy,” then you get it.

A lack of privacy adds to an already stressful situation in college. If left unchecked the stress can grow. Check out this story of this young man who failed college because of the pressure. What’s interesting is he used social media to share his message!

4. Ex’s Profiles

Do I need to say more? If you’ve had a relationship end, you’ve probably felt the urge to check their profiles. It’s a natural tendency to want to monitor what others are doing. This monitoring might keep you from moving through the stages of grief that come with relationship loss.

Setting boundaries around “checking” activities can help you to avoid getting sucked into a sadness spiral while also preventing toxic stress. Some college students find that goal oriented counseling helps to set up these boundaries.

5. Constant Checking

The existence of social media creates an expectation that we all monitor what others are doing constantly. This means that whether you are walking across campus, sitting at the café, or hanging out with friends, you probably want to “check-in.” Your friends might even expect that you post or think it’s strange when you don’t.

This constant checking can add pressure, but maybe worse, it can take you away from the experience, itself. Instead of living the experience that you are posting about, you are documenting it. This lack of mindful awareness may make you feel less connected to the people around you (Ever been out to eat with someone who is looking at their phone and thought, “why am I even here”?) and even less aware of the positive emotions that you feel when you are connecting with others.

6. Perfect Procrastinator

We’ve all been there. Deadlines are approaching, but you don’t want to do the work. Social media can serve as the perfect distracter. It’s never ending content and automatic refreshing allow you to avoid the work and the deadline. As you probably learned from the experience, when you logged off, the work was still there.

Many who are in college have described social media as a “time-sponge”, robbing them of their energy and focus to complete important assignments. Can you relate?

college stress in chicago

Summing Things Up

Social media is here to stay in our world and (probably) your life. As we become more and more digitally dependent, we also become more connected. This is why it is so important to have a person in your corner during college that “gets it” and can help you to navigate pressures during one of the most stressful times in your life.

No – you don’t have to give up spending time on Facebook or Instagram. You may, however, want to think about how to best integrate social media into your daily routine. If you are struggling right now with your studies or just feeling confused about where you are in life, I encourage you to get some support. Feel free to give us a call at 773.528.1777 or send us a note using our confidential contact form.

Thanks for visiting 2nd Story Counseling – where every life has a second story. Now get back studying!