College Freshman - Transitions are Hard Even if Social Media Makes it Look Easy

Imagine if kids today had to go off to college without an iphone, ability to text or use their various social media apps? How would they connect? Would they know how to keep in touch? How would they make plans for the evening?

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When I went off to college a handwritten letter to a friend or the hall phone was how we communicated with those we left behind. And, if we needed to make plans with a friend at college we would walk over to their room. If they were not around, we would poke our heads into the room next door and most likely end up chatting with that person. Even the process of the hall phone was social as someone would pick up a ringing phone and then have to go find the person the call was for. Without technology, person to person interactions happened naturally. Today’s technology makes it so much easier to communicate with parents and friends from hometowns.  It can also be much more productive than yelling down the hall to let someone know they have a phone call.  However, it also makes it easier than ever to not leave your room. The benefit of being without constant connectivity is that as a freshman it pushed you out of your room to make new friends. Person to person interaction happened naturally as part of the dorm communication process. One could more easily reinvent themselves because their past was not always with them every day on their phone. And, we never had to compare the fun (or lack of ) that we were having in our new environment to other’s experiences on a daily basis.   

For students today, with their constant access to what their friends are doing on social media, it can make it appear that everyone’s first time college experience is going along great and the transition has been effortless.  Every post is happy, friends are having the experience of a lifetime.  

Unfortunately, many kids will struggle but think everyone else is doing great because of their social media posts. Kids feel pressure to make their transition appear effortless, so the happy posts continue. 

Over the next few weeks approximately 2.4 million young adults (ages 18-24) will be entering college for the first time. Social media makes is easy to stay in touch but also makes it easy to make you think everyone else is just fine. If your transition is tough social media can overwhelm you with the dreadful feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you are not. 

Here are 4 items you can discuss with your child before they head off this fall so that maybe they can help a friend or a new classmate who is struggling. 

1.    Let your student know transitions are hard and despite the fact that social media can make it seem like everyone’s new college experience is going great pay attention to friend’s cues or new classmate to make sure they are okay, not struggling or hurting. 

2.    Ask them to take intentional actions if they know someone who is struggling – reach out to friends from home with a personal text or better yet call them on the phone. Have them ask someone they just met who seems down to go for a walk or run, have a cup of coffee or attend a campus event. Reaching out to someone you barely know can be awkward, but the social interaction will be helpful to both of them.

3.    Listen. Listen. Listen. Remind them of the power of listening. Once they have taken the time to reach out and connect - remind them to focus on the other person. By listening and being there they can bring comfort to that person.

4.    Finally, let them know If they take time to help others who are having a tough time adjusting it will also help them adjust. 

Good luck to all the freshman out there. Put down your phones, get off social media and experience what your new college has to offer.

Jill Bornstein is the Co – Founder & CFO of Inspiring Comfort. Learn more about how you can comfort and connect with others at www.inspiringcomfort.com

Jill Bornstein