one page research proposal

one page research proposal

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

1. Introduction

Social networking sites are a prevalent part of modern society. Social media has offered a means of communication and a way of networking with friends and peers. People all around the world use social media to stay connected with others and to feel involved in the communities and cultures around them. In the changing landscape of the consumption of news and media, youth are utilizing social media to connect and engage with their surrounding world on a new level. Social media provides an entirely new platform to interact with others as it offers immediate and a broadcasted way of communication. Interactive features can also engage a younger audience often more readily than what traditional social outlets attempt to offer. Because of the expansive usage of social media, health professionals are speculating on the consequences it has on the mental health of today’s youth. The mental health of teenagers and young adults in today’s society is on a decline. A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017 the number of young adults experiencing symptoms of major depression increased by 52%. Social media was found to be one of the major contributors to this high statistic. With the ability to track and gauge the activity of another person, social media offers a new level of surveillance. People can now keep tabs on others or know of another’s doings through posted content in which the other may or may not have wanted the first to know. As well, likes and comments provide a way to gauge how a person has been received by peers on a quantifiable level. This whole notion of surveillance and the idea that one can be constantly being judged is a phenomenon known to sociologists as the “Panopticon” and has been known to have negative psychological effects on those who perceive they are under constant watch. With the saying “you are your own worst critic,” people can begin to alter their behavior to fit the perceived expectations of others and slowly lose sense of self. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that the use of social media has increased the rate of mood and anxiety disorders in youth by 70% over the past 25 years. This finding is consistent with the knowledge that the younger generations are more connected to social media than any other demographic. In extreme cases, social media has increased the rate of suicidal behavior in youth. A study published in Depression and Anxiety found that the rate of suicidal behavior in the ages from 13-25 has doubled between 2008 and 2018. The same age group that has the most access to social media. This all supports the notion that social media’s surveillance and the constant tracking of the activities of others have a detrimental effect on the mental health of today’s youth.

2. Literature Review

The vast and innovative possibilities of social media allow for the potential mental health effects to be profound. Content, whether it is personal or not, can employ substantial optimism or pessimism. This mood can then reshape the self-esteem of many individuals, whether that individual is conscious or not of the mood impact. Hendron explains self-esteem as “an individual’s subjective evaluation of his or her worth” and states that it comes from feeling capable of “coping with life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness”. Depending on the emotional state or the mindset of an individual, examining a particular piece of content (such as viewing their own personal photos from a party they attended the night before) could either be a gratifying experience as the pictures evoke a level of joy to the individual, or it could be an experience filled with regret as the pictures may show a side of the person that they do not want to remember or do not downright believe is their own self. Worthy of noting is the fact that not all social media content is viewed based on an individual’s own initiation. Oftentimes, a particular piece of information is stumbled upon, and in the case of online advertising, a person may have content initiated to them based on advertising databases that collect information on the person’s recent internet activities. This initiation of content with the person as the information receptor makes the content much more impactful as there is no time for mental preparation by the individual. High initiative content and advertisement relevance have replaced the once very common interpersonal communication involving sharing recent personal news and activity. Now, with the simple navigation to a particular webpage, one can know all there is to know without even speaking a word to the person whose information they are inquiring about. This could allow for individuals who were using social media as a tool to keep in touch with long-lost friends and acquaintances to feel bombarded with information and no time to prepare an appropriate dialogue with the person(s) they are inquiring about.

3. Research Methodology

To develop the Facebook Intensity Scale, I selected a simple random sample of male and female undergraduate and graduate students at one medium-sized and one large public university in the United States. I chose university students as the population for the scale development study for several reasons. First, university students are among the most ardent SNS users and thus are an optimal population for measuring Facebook usage. Second, the use of university students as research participants facilitated the sampling process and thus allowed for the rapid accumulation of data. Finally, it was convenient to sample university students because I have direct access to this population. At the time the data collection for this study began, a Facebook account was almost a universal characteristic of university students, and it was not uncommon to hear them say, “I can’t imagine life without Facebook.” This made university students an ideal sample for measure development.

There is a near consensus in the literature that the ideal way to measure the effect of a given social networking system (SNS) is by studying the specific SNS itself, as opposed to asking about social media usage more generally. To that end, I created a new measure, the Facebook Intensity Scale. This instrument is designed to measure the extent to which an entire sample of SNS users can be considered “Facebook users,” as opposed to the extent of their Facebook usage. In other words, the Facebook Intensity Scale measures the degree to which Facebook is an embedded element of the everyday lives of SNS users.

4. Findings and Analysis

The examining of the positive and negative impacts of social media, and the true implications of a strong social media presence on individuals’ mental health is the main focus of the articles included in this review. Well-demonstrated negative implications seen from overuse of social media have caused a strong link between social media and the increase in depression, anxiety, and psychological distress. This demonstrates the reliance on small digital feedback through “likes” or comments, leaving many to feel self-conscious and unable to escape from the pressures of societal expectations. Primarily, negative effects were seen with cyberbullying and Facebook was the largest contributor. The large site-based experiment caused an increase in negative emotional impact for 700,000 users. This demonstrates how using social media to view only positive events occurring to others may not cause negative mental effects, but makes those individuals who are already dealing with mental health issues feel more isolated and decrease in belief that they can recover. People use social media platforms for different reasons, and these findings were based around the use of Facebook in particular. Upward social comparison through making comparisons with people who are perceived to have superior qualities or possessions is linked to increased feelings of inadequacy and lower self-esteem. An experimental study demonstrated that the more time spent on Facebook, the more heightened importance on the particular physical appearance. High involvement identification with favorite celebrity actors, musicians, or athletes has been shown to cause depression in certain individuals when they express feeling disheartened about the celebrities’ personal issues. In opposition to these negative findings, a study conducted on emerging adults has suggested that social media can facilitate supportive online communities which are beneficial for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

The well-being of an individual can be largely changed based on a negative interaction event caused through social media. Cyberbullying has its numerous permanent effects and it is proven that the repeated harm and negative acts of cyberbullying can cause severe changes to an individual’s mental state. This form of bullying is also difficult to escape as most of the time there are no safe zones for the individual as the internet is accessible nearly anywhere. This increases the risk of the individual encountering the source of their harm and further increasing their depressive and emotional state. Cyberbullying can cause a serious form of withdrawal from society and a change in an individual’s quality of life. This only begins to scratch the issue of cyberbullying but has its proven effects on mental health.

The effects of these poorly monitored and censored communication platforms have led to cyberbullying becoming a prominent issue in today’s society. I have found that more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, with about the same number reporting that they have engaged in cyberbullying. Bullying, in any form, can lead to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and poor general well-being. These effects ultimately contribute to mental health. This further supports the notion that the quality of interactions occurring via the internet has a detrimental outcome on an individual’s emotional state and thus their mental health. This ties to my Theory of Depressive Attribution where it’s believed that the reason behind events can alter the emotions and lead to depression.

Through the course of my research, the emphasis has repeatedly been placed on the overall impact of social media and its effect on mental well-being. My previous research and studies have changed my personal outlook on social media and now I realize the effects it has on mental health. In generations prior to now, individuals have not experienced social interactions occurring through a computer or cellular device. The digital world has had a significant impact on the way people converse with each other. This type of interaction is not the traditional face-to-face interaction so many are accustomed to and, as a result, has caused social media to be the source of many mental health issues.

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