As the class of 2019 prepares to turn their tassels, the “real” world lies before them. Post-college possibilities are endless, whether it be grad school, a new job or a new city. In some ways that unknown can be exhilarating. But in much larger ways, that unknown can be overwhelming, scary even. You can sit around any day and dream about life after college, concocting various living situations, big career moves and a whole new world. And for the most part, maybe even without knowing, those day-dreams will probably be heavily influenced by popular television shows. “New Girl,” “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” the list goes on. Ingrained in us early on is a specific way of life, lived by our favorite sitcom characters. It isn’t until we get to be the same age as the characters we’ve watched for so long that we’re faced with the realities of adulthood.
One of the more entertaining parts of “Friends” is how everyone always seems to be together. The number of times an episode opened to all of them sitting in Central Perk or Monica’s apartment is innumerable. No matter the day of the week or time of the day, they always hang out. The quality of their intentional time together is respectable, but the reality is unless you live with other people or meet someone with an eerily similar routine, having coordinated free time is going to be difficult. In sitcoms, the communal aspect of friendships, friend groups numbering many and hanging out every day, is stressed so heavily that the expectation for such a social life is set to an unachievable level. Adding to this social reality is the fact that you’ve spent four years surrounded by people. Being in college, you have the convenience, if you’re lucky, of living with some of your best friends. Outside of your room, friends are only a walk down the hall or across campus. You can always count on running into a friendly face in the dining hall or Krannert. Making that switch from constant community to what can feel a bit like isolation is only intensified when life looks a little too cheery on your favorite sitcom.
Included in this unrealistic portrayal is the uncanny luck of characters in landing perfect jobs with little to no effort. The job market can be a bit harsh, and the last thing recent graduates need is the false hope of “maybe it will just happen” we so often see on television. With that dream job, we also see characters enjoy a ridiculous amount of free time. Every weekend characters are on some sort of adventure and even during the week they freely go get coffee, lunch or just go shopping. For any employer, surely that would be enough to fire an employee. Yet, these actions seem to go unnoticed.
Yes, these portrayals all play out in a fantasy universe completely curated to entertain viewers. However, constant exposure to such a life that our favorite characters live undoubtedly has some effect on our perception of how we’ll all be spending our time after college. It’s easy to forget the intentions of the show, to solely be watched and enjoyed, when you’re so enamored by the glamorous and easy-going life styles your favorite characters live. They’re all so young, attractive, relatable. Sure, they mess up, but never too much. And their mess ups just make them more realistic, only furthering this desire to fulfill the lives they have lived through television.
Life after college requires a lot more effort than people realize. As badly as we all want our twenties’ to be a breeze, finding instant friendships, a dream job and a perfect relationship, the reality is none of that is going to happen without some effort on your own part. Coming to this realization is difficult when our favorite shows make post-grad life seem so glorious. Of course, there will be great moments of triumph. These things won’t happen, though, by just being idle. Despite what we’ve been taught through sitcoms, a perfect job won’t fall in your lap and friendships won’t be as easy as walking into a coffee shop. In between those times, however, it’s important to remember that the hardships and uncertainty you will face after college are normal; everyone around you will experience the same thing at one point or another. That ideal is just an added, unfortunate pressure exerted on us all from sitcoms that make it seem like a breeze. Instead, you’ll have to put social and academic effort into your post-grad life. In return, however, you’ll find that community and you’ll land a job. In the meantime, you can always binge some more Netflix. Just do so with a little more awareness.
The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.