Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Comparing ourselves puts a damper on Spring Break and beyond

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

We had one week. For one week, we lived without the urgency of classes and evening meetings and structured days. We were supposed to get a break from it all.

We traveled to southern beaches and sat poolside and breathed in warmer air and stopped worrying about to-do lists. And that should've been enough. Even if we were sitting on our couches in our hometowns, it should've been enough.

But one thing we didn't get a break from was comparison. When we looked at our phones, we were compelled to compare our experiences to the girl or guy on a different beach or different part of the world.

As we scrolled through our Instagram feeds or Snapchat stories, we were flooded with a whirlwind of sunny images, big-city adventures and hundred dollar meals.

Perhaps the images that hit the hardest were those seemingly perfect, tanned swimsuit bodies. We scrolled through scores of those. We saw that girl's flat stomach or that guy's six-pack and no matter our vacation location, we were instantly somewhere else. We were in comparison land or in self-loathing land. We were thinking about our own flubby stomachs or less-than-ideal weight or how big our legs looked in that picture.

And suddenly, our experiences weren't enough. We weren't enough. A part of us just wanted to look like everyone else. Even during those days far away from Oxford, we couldn't take a break from the need to fit in and compare.

This need, for many, reigns at Miami and Spring Break is a big, bold sign of that. We are conditioned to pose for the same pictures and to look skinny and to visit that exotic beach on our parents' dime. Even this week, as we exchange stories of our adventures, we compare stories and try to win the "who has the best tan" battle.

Miami is home to plenty of uniform faces, wardrobes and body types. Our campus is pretty extreme when it comes to trying to fit in. For girls, it's all about being skinny, or maybe more about not being overweight or even average weight. Pick any "hottest college girls" list on BuzzFeed or a similar site and Miami is usually near the top. That can be a really scary title to live up to when you see the competition and when you don't feel like you measure up.

Some students work extra hard to simultaneously party and stay skinny, despite the two so clearly contradicting each other. Students hit the Rec during the day in order to justify eating three slices of pizza at 2 a.m. Soon, maybe they would rather drink their calories than eating full meals.

Like many collegiate-style tendencies, this isn't a healthy viewpoint. For many, working out is not about performing physically at their best, but to fit into a double-zero pair of shorts at Lululemon. It's all about looking like everyone else and keeping up.

What does all of this say about us as a college? Wouldn't we rather be a college of strong young women and men? Wouldn't we rather be a collection of individuals and build each other up just as we are? Wouldn't we rather work out because we want to run a marathon or play a sport or because we enjoy it?

This kind of atmosphere is possible here. It may seem far off, but it's possible here. Maybe it takes not cringing when you see a body "better" than yours. Maybe it takes listening to "All about that bass" a few more times. Maybe it takes growing up and leaving college habits behind. Or maybe it takes something like MU Project You, a new initiative on campus that's challenging the need to fit in. It's pushing students to believe that "no matter where they come from, what they look like or how they identify, each one is perfectly unique, valuable and worthy beyond words." It's a beautiful sentiment, but blatantly absent over much of Miami's campus. Project You is about individuals. It's about breaking that "everybody is the same" stereotype. It's about reversing the culture that Miami is breeding left and right. Maybe we need a heavy dose of something like that.

This group won't shift all of Miami's stereotypes, but it might start the conversation. It might get people to think twice before feeling bad about their uniqueness. It might champion the idea of standing out instead of fitting in. And for now, maybe that's what we need.