Social media has taught the human race a few things: grandmas are wild cards in the comment sections, keeping up with people from high school is not as important as previously thought and constant comparison is harmful to the human psyche.
The problem is that the comparison culture has seeped into college life, especially with the need to compare misery — and it’s toxic.
Having the most difficult life and schedule is often seen as a source of pride, especially in college. Getting less sleep than "everyone”? Here's a bonus point. Got a terrible professor? Add another. Studying a lot for an extremely difficult test? The trifecta has been completed.
It’s a source of pride for college students, myself included, to have a difficult schedule and receive sympathy from people for that schedule. Conversations are naturally steered towards sleep schedules, money issues and other life problems until friendships devolve into complaining about how difficult life is, which is not a great place to be.
The toxic viewpoint of sleep comes from more places than a college campus. The viewpoint of “rise and grind” culture is that a lack of sleep leads to personal achievement. The problem with that is that human biology blatantly disagrees with that assertion.
The Sleeping Foundation recommends around seven to nine hours of sleep for everyone from 18 to 64. A study done by Jawbone that was published in an NPR article shows that college students average around 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night. Funny how I and everyone I’ve ever talked to on campus slept “barely five hours.”
Getting the actual amount of sleep required helps increase energy, cognitive function and has a slew of other health benefits. So, maybe actually getting enough sleep should be seen as a goal and not a detriment in college culture.
The same issue of comparing sleep also translates to classwork. There is a saying in sports that there will eventually always be someone who is “stronger, bigger and faster” than whoever is playing right now, and unless your name is Bo Jackson, this has always been true. The same thing can be said about class schedules. Someone will always have a harder schedule, more difficult professors and spend more time studying than everyone else.
This comparison will always leave a person feeling empty, because someone will always have it worse. That’s why the idea of creating a hierarchy based on the difficulty of college life makes no sense. Entire relationships are built on tearing each other down for purposes of comparison, and that is bad for all involved.
Comparison culture also has no foundation to sit on because people lie all the time. The average 18 to 44-year-old lies about twice a day according to a National Geographic study. Humans are very unreliable when it comes to telling the truth, so it makes sense that people would lie to make their lives seem worse than they are.
For all we know, everyone is cruising with eight hours of sleep and easy classes, having a good time, but they are all lying about their extremely difficult lives. People may end up comparing who can lie more convincingly about their personal misery.
College students have different lives with numerous intricacies that make it nearly impossible to compare one person’s misery to another, so let’s not waste time trying. If for some reason someone comes out on top of that “misery argument,” are they really even winning or are they losing the point?