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Social Media Is Changing How College Students Deal With
Mental Health, For Better Or Worse
Students admit social media fosters unrealistic expectations.
But it could also be a way to reach those suffering from the
pressure.
By Riley Griffin
·
·
·
·
When she began her freshman year in 2011, Sydney embarked
on a tumultuous transformation. She had been accepted to her
“reach school,” Duke University, where students seemed to
strive for perfection both academically and socially.
The change came fast and without warning for Sydney, who
asked to be referred to by her first name for this story to protect
her privacy. In the classroom, she did not coast by as she had in
high school. Her grades lagged, friendships both formed and
faltered, and at times she lost confidence. Although many
students find it difficult to adjust to college, Sydney carried the
additional weight of an anxiety diagnosis. Change, she noted,
can exacerbate the effects of a mental health disorder.
Sydney turned to her phone for an alternate reality. In the
current college culture, Sydney explained, “the perfect girl on
Instagram” looks like she’s having “so much fun,” has more
followers than she is following, and collects “likes” in
nanoseconds.
As she scanned the posts and profiles of her peers, Sydney
struggled to distinguish between fact and fiction. She felt a
disconnect from the image of perfection.
“I was glued to my phone freshman year. I couldn’t put it
down,” recalled Sydney, who graduated from Duke this spring.
“I was more critical of myself, of what I posted, of what I had
up.”
College students today are more detached from their peers than
ever before. Research shows they’re less likely to have tangible
relationships; enter college having spent less time socializing as
teens; are more likely to be heavily medicated; and feel a
greater pressure to be academically and socially successful than
in the past.
Paired with the increasing dependence on social media, these
factors leave students susceptible to mental health
complications, some experts say. Meanwhile, the college
community is using technology to reach students who need
help.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES,
COOPERATIVE INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH PROGRAM
In the last year, anxiety has superseded depression as the most
prevalent mental health disorder across college campuses,
according to a study by the American College Health
Association. Approximately one in six students has been
diagnosed or treated for anxiety. As emotional health takes a
turn for the worse, Sydney believes, students spend more time
on social media.
“Students are always on on their phones,” Sydney said. “That’s
just the nature of our generation. We are always interconnected,
always in communication.”
The facts support Sydney’s assertion: Social media usage has
increased nationally by almost 1000 percent in eight years for
people between 18 and 29, according to findings from the Pew
Research Center. More than 98 percent of college-aged students
use social media, says consumer insight service Experian
Simmons. In addition, an annual nationwide survey of college
students by UCLA found that 27.2 percent of students spent
more than six hours on social media a week in 2014, up from
19.9 percent in 2007. The increase may be problematic, since
heavy Facebook usage can lead to symptoms of envy, anxiety
and depression, according to a recent study by the University of
Missouri.
Dr. Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University
Clinic For Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains that social
media acts as a counterfeit reality for students unable to cope
with their circumstances.
“Social media and other technologies can give an individual a
false sense of having true relationships, which can get in the
way of developing peer support and mentor relationships,”
Albano said. “In actuality, they never cross over to make an
engaging relationship with such people in the real world.”
Perfectionism In A Post
Social media, experts say, can push undergrads toward
competitive comparisons. And students agree.
“Social media is a really easy way to feel excluded. Facebook,
Instagram and Snapchat make me hyper-aware of the activities I
wasn’t invited to partake in, and less involved in the activities
that are actually in front of me,” said Lily Osman, 18, a student
at Franklin and Marshall College. “Anxiety makes me feel as if
I did something wrong, which rewires my feelings towards my
classmates. Comparing myself to others is blatantly unhealthy.
It makes me question my place in life.”
Dr. Gary Glass, the associate director of counseling and
psychological services at Duke, notes that the classroom is no
longer the only environment that demands perfection.
“People tend to publish the most impressive, entertaining,
and/or attractive versions of themselves on social media
platforms,” Glass said in an email. “This can create a false
impression of how much happier or more successful others are.”
Social Media Use 18-29 | Create infographics
A number of students who spoke to The Huffington Post said
they know online profiles don’t always accurately reflect a
person’s life. But they acknowledged that social media
platforms incite anxiety all the same.
“You go on social media and only see the amazing things people
are accomplishing but do not see the paths they took to get
there. You feel like you aren’t doing enough — not traveling
enough, not making enough friends, not working out enough, et
cetera,” said Cassidy Bolt, a 19-year-old Duke student.
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By only presenting the glossed-over version of their lives,
students say, they sometimes mask their struggles and
discomfort from the very peers who could provide support.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Sydney said. “When I’m getting
positive feedback on social media, it can help put me at ease,
but negative feedback — or lack of feedback — can make me
anxious.”
Disconnecting from social media may have an equally
detrimental effect upon students’ anxiety.
“There is a tangible increase in people’s need to be connected at
all times and clear, visceral discomfort when ‘offline’ for too
long,” said Dr. Vivian Mougios, a neuropsychologist and
learning specialist.
As Glass put it, “We need to treat the water, and not simply
each fish that’s struggling.”
Harnessing Technology For Good
Although some students increasingly feel a need to disconnect
from social media, universities and their students are also trying
to find ways to use technology to reach those who are struggling
— from Facebook support groups, to mental health apps, to
online therapy games.
Drexel University developed an initiative in June to screen
students through a “mental health kiosk” that looks like an
ATM. The kiosk reads, “Get a Check-Up From the Neck Up,”
according to USA Today, encouraging students to gauge their
stress levels when unable or unwilling to seek out a
professional.
DREXEL UNIVERSITY
Technology can also help intervene in dangerous situations.
In April, after someone posted a suicide note on the anonymous
social media app Yik Yak at the University of Michigan, the
school’s social media director Nikki Sunstrum was able to
contact campus police and locate the student within 24 hours.
Immediately after the note was posted, many students posted on
Yik Yak offering the original poster support and advice.
Sunstrum posted information about the school’s psychological
services on Yik Yak. Since then, the school has devised a
“positivity pledge“ to cultivate a safe and constructive
community online.
UM’s administration used social media platforms that were
readily available, Sunstrum told HuffPost. “We are not
reinventing the medium [for outreach] and we don’t have to at
this point, because those resources are already in place,”
Sunstrum said.
Similarly, University of Pennsylvania incoming freshmen
banded together to address mental health concerns in a
Facebook support group. Students unsure of how to cope with
mental health disorders after high school say the group has been
helpful for transitioning, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Campus psychological services could build on these efforts and
adapt to the changing culture on campus by using “transparency
and education,” recommended Mougios.
“The more colleges focus on educating students and providing
resources, the better opportunities they will have to help,”
Mougios said. “All students should have semester or yearly
‘check ups.’ Likewise, colleges should ensure there are
multiple resources easily accessible.”
As Sydney embarks on the next chapter of her life, she looks
back at her time at Duke fondly, and sees the hyperaware, social
media-obsessed nature of college as a learning experience.
“I have found balance devoid of the pressures of perfection and
the stigma that accompanies mental health,” Sydney said. “I
want nothing more than to help others find confidence in
themselves, too.”
ESSAY 1: ENGL 1301
Essay 2: Summary and Response Essay
Throughout your academic career, you will be asked to read
something and respond to it. This Summary and Response essay
prepares you for reading a text critically and responding to it.
Choose any one of the articles we read on the topics of social
media or cultural appropriation.
In a 2-3 page essay, summarize the text accurately and
objectively and respond to it with a thoughtful analysis.
Your summary should include:
· The author’s claim
· The title of the text and the full name of the author (the first
time you mention the text)
· The author’s reasoning (focusing only on the author’s main
points)
· The use of signal phrases (like “The author suggests…” or
“S/he explains that…”) to indicate the ideas are the author’s
(not yours)
· About 300 words (or 1+ pages)
Your response should include:
· An analysis and critique of the text and its effectiveness
· An organized approach (a thesis, supporting points, and
evidence to support those points)
· Use of both paraphrasing and quotations
· Appropriate transitions between summary and response to
indicate the movement of ideas
· About 300 words (or 1+ pages)
Your essay should have a Works Cited list that contains the
source (article) you used.
Organizing Your Summary and Response Essay*
INTRODUCTION
· Introduce the topic with a hook – a question, quote, a story, a
statement, (some interesting way to open up the conversation
about the topic of the article.
· Provide a brief overview of the article (the topic and attitude).
Make sure you mention the author’s full name and the full title
of the article or essay.
· State your thesis, an opinion about the article (that you will
develop in the essay).
BODY
You will probably want to consider one of two ways to organize
the body of your essay: block or point pattern. (See table on
next page.)
CONCLUSION
· Reaffirm your opinion about the article (your thesis). Include
the author’s name and thesis.
· Comment on the importance of the topic, returning to the
opening strategy (your question, quote, statement of problem,
whatever).
WORKS CITED LIST – Include at least the citation for the
article you used.
Outline 1: Block Pattern*
Outline 2: Point Pattern*
I. Introduction (1 paragraph)
II. Summary: (1 paragraph) Remember you are only
summarizing (you may have fewer or more than
these 4 points)
A. Main Point 1
B. Main Point 2
C. Main Point 3
D. Main Point 4
III. Response Section (3-5 paragraphs)
A. Respond to Main Point 1 by stating
whether you agree or disagree and offer
explanation and proof to defend your point
of view.
B. Respond to Main Point 2 in same manner,
providing a good transition (agree/disagree)
C. Respond to Main Point 3 in same manner
(agree/disagreed)
D. Respond to Main Point 4 in same manner
(agree/disagreed)
IV. Conclusion
I. Introduction
II. Main point 1
A. Summarize Point 1
B. Respond to Point 1 (agree/disagree)
Support your statement with explanation
III. Main Point 2
A. Summarize Point 2
B. Respond to Point 2 (agree/disagree)
Support your statement with explanation
IV. Main Point 3
A. Summarize Point 3
B. Respond to Point 3 (agree/disagree)
Support your statement with explanation
V. Main Point 3
A. Summarize Point 3
B. Respond to Point 3 (agree/disagree)
Support your statement with explanation
VI. Conclusion
Grading
Your essay (worth a total of 150 points) will be graded using
the following criteria:
Summary - accurately and objectively represents the author’s
central claim and key supporting points. The summary does not
merely list the main ideas but shows how the reasons support
the claim. The summary is selective about details and
examples, choosing only ones that help to illustrate a key point.
30 points
Response – Includes a clear thesis that is critical and analytical.
Thesis is supported with reasons and textual evidence. The
response examines the rhetorical choices made by the author
and how effective they were.
40 points
Quotations and Paraphrasing – The essay uses both quotations
and paraphrasing that are appropriately integrated into the
summary and response. Author’s ideas are effectively attributed
using signal phrases.
20 points
Organization - Paper clearly and effectively presents both the
summary and response. Transitions and paragraphing are used
when appropriate.
15 points
Mechanics - Demonstrates a command of the standards of edited
American English with no
major grammatical errors.
15 points
MLA Format - Employs MLA format and documentation style,
using in-text citations and including works cited page. Includes
correct heading, font size, and spacing.
15 points
Writing Process - Demonstrates evidence of the writing process
through outlining and/or drafting.
15 points
Due Dates
Rough draft due Thursday, October 25 (Bring your rough draft
to class.)
Final draft due Tuesday, October 30 (Upload to Final Draft #2
in Essay 2:
Summary and Response Essay and bring hard copy to class.)
* Modified from “Summary and Response Essay”
(https://apps.spokane.edu/InternetContent/AutoWebs/lorim/2014
/English%2099/Summary%20Response%20Essay%20Assignmen
t.pdf)

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  • 1. Social Media Is Changing How College Students Deal With Mental Health, For Better Or Worse Students admit social media fosters unrealistic expectations. But it could also be a way to reach those suffering from the pressure. By Riley Griffin · · · · When she began her freshman year in 2011, Sydney embarked on a tumultuous transformation. She had been accepted to her “reach school,” Duke University, where students seemed to strive for perfection both academically and socially. The change came fast and without warning for Sydney, who asked to be referred to by her first name for this story to protect her privacy. In the classroom, she did not coast by as she had in high school. Her grades lagged, friendships both formed and faltered, and at times she lost confidence. Although many students find it difficult to adjust to college, Sydney carried the additional weight of an anxiety diagnosis. Change, she noted, can exacerbate the effects of a mental health disorder. Sydney turned to her phone for an alternate reality. In the current college culture, Sydney explained, “the perfect girl on Instagram” looks like she’s having “so much fun,” has more followers than she is following, and collects “likes” in nanoseconds. As she scanned the posts and profiles of her peers, Sydney struggled to distinguish between fact and fiction. She felt a disconnect from the image of perfection. “I was glued to my phone freshman year. I couldn’t put it down,” recalled Sydney, who graduated from Duke this spring. “I was more critical of myself, of what I posted, of what I had up.”
  • 2. College students today are more detached from their peers than ever before. Research shows they’re less likely to have tangible relationships; enter college having spent less time socializing as teens; are more likely to be heavily medicated; and feel a greater pressure to be academically and socially successful than in the past. Paired with the increasing dependence on social media, these factors leave students susceptible to mental health complications, some experts say. Meanwhile, the college community is using technology to reach students who need help. THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, COOPERATIVE INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH PROGRAM In the last year, anxiety has superseded depression as the most prevalent mental health disorder across college campuses, according to a study by the American College Health Association. Approximately one in six students has been diagnosed or treated for anxiety. As emotional health takes a turn for the worse, Sydney believes, students spend more time on social media. “Students are always on on their phones,” Sydney said. “That’s just the nature of our generation. We are always interconnected, always in communication.” The facts support Sydney’s assertion: Social media usage has increased nationally by almost 1000 percent in eight years for people between 18 and 29, according to findings from the Pew Research Center. More than 98 percent of college-aged students use social media, says consumer insight service Experian Simmons. In addition, an annual nationwide survey of college students by UCLA found that 27.2 percent of students spent more than six hours on social media a week in 2014, up from 19.9 percent in 2007. The increase may be problematic, since heavy Facebook usage can lead to symptoms of envy, anxiety and depression, according to a recent study by the University of Missouri.
  • 3. Dr. Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University Clinic For Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains that social media acts as a counterfeit reality for students unable to cope with their circumstances. “Social media and other technologies can give an individual a false sense of having true relationships, which can get in the way of developing peer support and mentor relationships,” Albano said. “In actuality, they never cross over to make an engaging relationship with such people in the real world.” Perfectionism In A Post Social media, experts say, can push undergrads toward competitive comparisons. And students agree. “Social media is a really easy way to feel excluded. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat make me hyper-aware of the activities I wasn’t invited to partake in, and less involved in the activities that are actually in front of me,” said Lily Osman, 18, a student at Franklin and Marshall College. “Anxiety makes me feel as if I did something wrong, which rewires my feelings towards my classmates. Comparing myself to others is blatantly unhealthy. It makes me question my place in life.” Dr. Gary Glass, the associate director of counseling and psychological services at Duke, notes that the classroom is no longer the only environment that demands perfection. “People tend to publish the most impressive, entertaining, and/or attractive versions of themselves on social media platforms,” Glass said in an email. “This can create a false impression of how much happier or more successful others are.” Social Media Use 18-29 | Create infographics A number of students who spoke to The Huffington Post said they know online profiles don’t always accurately reflect a person’s life. But they acknowledged that social media platforms incite anxiety all the same. “You go on social media and only see the amazing things people are accomplishing but do not see the paths they took to get there. You feel like you aren’t doing enough — not traveling
  • 4. enough, not making enough friends, not working out enough, et cetera,” said Cassidy Bolt, a 19-year-old Duke student. Subscribe to The Good Life email. A completely essential daily guide to achieving the good life. Top of Form Bottom of Form By only presenting the glossed-over version of their lives, students say, they sometimes mask their struggles and discomfort from the very peers who could provide support. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Sydney said. “When I’m getting positive feedback on social media, it can help put me at ease, but negative feedback — or lack of feedback — can make me anxious.” Disconnecting from social media may have an equally detrimental effect upon students’ anxiety. “There is a tangible increase in people’s need to be connected at all times and clear, visceral discomfort when ‘offline’ for too long,” said Dr. Vivian Mougios, a neuropsychologist and learning specialist. As Glass put it, “We need to treat the water, and not simply each fish that’s struggling.” Harnessing Technology For Good Although some students increasingly feel a need to disconnect from social media, universities and their students are also trying to find ways to use technology to reach those who are struggling — from Facebook support groups, to mental health apps, to online therapy games. Drexel University developed an initiative in June to screen students through a “mental health kiosk” that looks like an ATM. The kiosk reads, “Get a Check-Up From the Neck Up,” according to USA Today, encouraging students to gauge their stress levels when unable or unwilling to seek out a professional. DREXEL UNIVERSITY Technology can also help intervene in dangerous situations.
  • 5. In April, after someone posted a suicide note on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak at the University of Michigan, the school’s social media director Nikki Sunstrum was able to contact campus police and locate the student within 24 hours. Immediately after the note was posted, many students posted on Yik Yak offering the original poster support and advice. Sunstrum posted information about the school’s psychological services on Yik Yak. Since then, the school has devised a “positivity pledge“ to cultivate a safe and constructive community online. UM’s administration used social media platforms that were readily available, Sunstrum told HuffPost. “We are not reinventing the medium [for outreach] and we don’t have to at this point, because those resources are already in place,” Sunstrum said. Similarly, University of Pennsylvania incoming freshmen banded together to address mental health concerns in a Facebook support group. Students unsure of how to cope with mental health disorders after high school say the group has been helpful for transitioning, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. Campus psychological services could build on these efforts and adapt to the changing culture on campus by using “transparency and education,” recommended Mougios. “The more colleges focus on educating students and providing resources, the better opportunities they will have to help,” Mougios said. “All students should have semester or yearly ‘check ups.’ Likewise, colleges should ensure there are multiple resources easily accessible.” As Sydney embarks on the next chapter of her life, she looks back at her time at Duke fondly, and sees the hyperaware, social media-obsessed nature of college as a learning experience. “I have found balance devoid of the pressures of perfection and the stigma that accompanies mental health,” Sydney said. “I want nothing more than to help others find confidence in themselves, too.”
  • 6. ESSAY 1: ENGL 1301 Essay 2: Summary and Response Essay Throughout your academic career, you will be asked to read something and respond to it. This Summary and Response essay prepares you for reading a text critically and responding to it. Choose any one of the articles we read on the topics of social media or cultural appropriation. In a 2-3 page essay, summarize the text accurately and objectively and respond to it with a thoughtful analysis. Your summary should include: · The author’s claim · The title of the text and the full name of the author (the first time you mention the text) · The author’s reasoning (focusing only on the author’s main points) · The use of signal phrases (like “The author suggests…” or “S/he explains that…”) to indicate the ideas are the author’s (not yours) · About 300 words (or 1+ pages) Your response should include: · An analysis and critique of the text and its effectiveness · An organized approach (a thesis, supporting points, and evidence to support those points) · Use of both paraphrasing and quotations · Appropriate transitions between summary and response to indicate the movement of ideas
  • 7. · About 300 words (or 1+ pages) Your essay should have a Works Cited list that contains the source (article) you used. Organizing Your Summary and Response Essay* INTRODUCTION · Introduce the topic with a hook – a question, quote, a story, a statement, (some interesting way to open up the conversation about the topic of the article. · Provide a brief overview of the article (the topic and attitude). Make sure you mention the author’s full name and the full title of the article or essay. · State your thesis, an opinion about the article (that you will develop in the essay). BODY You will probably want to consider one of two ways to organize the body of your essay: block or point pattern. (See table on next page.) CONCLUSION · Reaffirm your opinion about the article (your thesis). Include the author’s name and thesis. · Comment on the importance of the topic, returning to the opening strategy (your question, quote, statement of problem, whatever). WORKS CITED LIST – Include at least the citation for the article you used. Outline 1: Block Pattern* Outline 2: Point Pattern* I. Introduction (1 paragraph)
  • 8. II. Summary: (1 paragraph) Remember you are only summarizing (you may have fewer or more than these 4 points) A. Main Point 1 B. Main Point 2 C. Main Point 3 D. Main Point 4 III. Response Section (3-5 paragraphs) A. Respond to Main Point 1 by stating whether you agree or disagree and offer explanation and proof to defend your point of view. B. Respond to Main Point 2 in same manner, providing a good transition (agree/disagree) C. Respond to Main Point 3 in same manner (agree/disagreed) D. Respond to Main Point 4 in same manner (agree/disagreed) IV. Conclusion I. Introduction II. Main point 1 A. Summarize Point 1 B. Respond to Point 1 (agree/disagree) Support your statement with explanation III. Main Point 2 A. Summarize Point 2 B. Respond to Point 2 (agree/disagree) Support your statement with explanation
  • 9. IV. Main Point 3 A. Summarize Point 3 B. Respond to Point 3 (agree/disagree) Support your statement with explanation V. Main Point 3 A. Summarize Point 3 B. Respond to Point 3 (agree/disagree) Support your statement with explanation VI. Conclusion Grading Your essay (worth a total of 150 points) will be graded using the following criteria: Summary - accurately and objectively represents the author’s central claim and key supporting points. The summary does not merely list the main ideas but shows how the reasons support the claim. The summary is selective about details and examples, choosing only ones that help to illustrate a key point. 30 points Response – Includes a clear thesis that is critical and analytical. Thesis is supported with reasons and textual evidence. The response examines the rhetorical choices made by the author and how effective they were. 40 points Quotations and Paraphrasing – The essay uses both quotations and paraphrasing that are appropriately integrated into the
  • 10. summary and response. Author’s ideas are effectively attributed using signal phrases. 20 points Organization - Paper clearly and effectively presents both the summary and response. Transitions and paragraphing are used when appropriate. 15 points Mechanics - Demonstrates a command of the standards of edited American English with no major grammatical errors. 15 points MLA Format - Employs MLA format and documentation style, using in-text citations and including works cited page. Includes correct heading, font size, and spacing.
  • 11. 15 points Writing Process - Demonstrates evidence of the writing process through outlining and/or drafting. 15 points Due Dates Rough draft due Thursday, October 25 (Bring your rough draft to class.) Final draft due Tuesday, October 30 (Upload to Final Draft #2 in Essay 2: Summary and Response Essay and bring hard copy to class.) * Modified from “Summary and Response Essay” (https://apps.spokane.edu/InternetContent/AutoWebs/lorim/2014 /English%2099/Summary%20Response%20Essay%20Assignmen t.pdf)