research proposal example psychology

research proposal example psychology

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

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1. Introduction

During 2017, there were around 2 billion individuals who were signed up and currently active on social media. It is widely known that millennials are the generation where social media is overly popular amongst them. Social media plays a big role in communication. It has changed our way of communicating, collaborating, and probably has an impact on our social behavior. It is easy to communicate through social media, and mostly shy people have less difficulty talking through social media. This is how millennials nowadays build new relationships and maintain them through the existence of social media. But the big question is, does it have a negative impact on millennials’ mental health? According to research, there are approximately 90% of individuals aged 18-29 who are using social media. These people are in the same range as millennials today. With the heavy use of social media among individuals, it often leads to comparison between their life and other people’s lives. This is due to the excessive information and posts shared by other people. Their shared information is likely success and positive information, and when people compare this to their life, sometimes it will lead to low self-esteem and a decrease in self-confidence because they think that their life is not as good as the person’s life they saw on the shared information. This behavior will have a negative impact on their mental health. This kind of behavior is closely related to the theory of social comparison and self-evaluation (Festinger, 1954). The theory states that people will compare themselves with other people, and when the comparison occurs, it will affect their self-evaluation. This may lead to positive or negative feelings towards them. But in reality, comparison with another person is not entirely good. There are people better and worse than us, but knowing the worst part often leads to negative feelings, as said in the downward comparison model (Wood, 1989). The next negative impact is cyberbullying. It can harm an individual’s mental health regardless of their age. Cyberbullying can take many forms. It can be racial and hate speech, spreading false information, and many others. Because it is done on the internet, these things will likely last longer than when it is done in real life. The impact can be much greater. Often, individuals who are bullied will have lower mental health. Sometimes it leads to depression. Bullying itself can be explained by coercion and lifestyle theories. Both of these theories mention that bullying is an act of hostility and it will affect a person’s well-being and mental health. The next lifestyle theory states that the act of hostility is a result of frustration from the bully’s personal failure or outside pressure. According to the theory, it can be said that the bully is applying the downward comparison method towards the person they bullied.

2. Literature Review

Adolescents and young adults are the heaviest users of social media. Using the youth as an example is not only for their heavy use of social media but also their vulnerability to higher stress levels during the time of hormone change and brain development. In the first article, “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.” by Primack, Sidani, Shriber, Whaite, the determined effect of social media came from much speculation that social media was enhancing users’ depression and anxiety based on the many nature of cyberbullying, and to a more extreme extent the promotion of suicide in some cases. Depression, anxiety, withdrawal, mistrust, and sensitivity are all from the construct of perceived social isolation. Measures of social isolation have been related to both objective social indicators and subjective emotional assessments of social connectedness (Primack et al., 157). The article included a sample of 1787 U.S. adults from ages 19 through 32. A calculated average of the time spent on social media was 61 minutes per day and the standard deviation was 40 minutes. The solitude scale and the UCLA loneliness scale were used on online surveys and participants with higher social media usage had an increase in social isolation. For social interaction that was in person, there was not an association of social isolation and thus it was concluded that social media is taking away from the well-known benefits of regular social interactions. In the end, it was noted that the study was cross-sectional and thus a causation between social media usage and isolation cannot be accurate. On the other hand, negative or positive causation still has an effect on the well-being of an individual, coming to the agreement that the heavy use of social media does have long-term effects on mental health.

– The Introduction – The nature of a literature review

3. Methodology

Participants Participants in this study included 438 individuals from the University of Canberra. Data was collected from an equal number of females and males. The age of individuals ranged from 17 to 56 years with an average age of 23.49 years. Students were selected as the participant group because of the perceived increased usage of social media by people of university age. An information session was conducted to inform students of the purpose of the study and to invite them to participate. During an 11-day period, individuals who decided to partake in the study were provided a link to an online survey. The survey was chosen as a means of data collection because it is more time effective and cost efficient than conducting in-person interviews. The large amount of participants involved in the study has limitations. Although no causality can be inferred from the demographic analyses, the homogeneity in age and social technological familiarity may limit the generalizability of the findings across different ages in the population.

Research design The research design for this study is a non-experimental, interpretative examination into the impact of social media on the mental health of its users. It involved the identification of the initial relationships between social media usage and mental health and then considering the potential consequences of these relationships. The negative consequences were identified in the results section of this paper through an inductive thematic analysis of participants’ responses. This form of research design was chosen because it attempts to observe and interpret the impact of social media on mental health by testing the relationship between these two variables. Although it does not establish causality, it is more suitable as a means to prompt discussion about the potential consequences of social media usage.

4. Findings and Analysis

Body image, or how an individual perceives themselves, is an ongoing issue in society. In the age of social media where advertisements and pop-ups for cosmetic enhancement are rampant, it has not been made easier. In a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, researchers sampled 1,765 United States adults ages 19-32. The negative body image and appearance comparison were associated with increased social media usage. People engaging in higher appearance comparison behaviors experienced increased cosmetic surgery attitudes and willingness to undergo cosmetic medical procedures. In the worst-case scenario, exposure to media-portrayed images of beauty has led to something now known as “Facebook Facelifts.” In 2011, there were over 42,000,000 pages found for “cosmetic surgery,” and searching for this term led viewers to 115 sponsored advertisements appearing on Facebook at a rate of every 1-2 page results. Social media advertising on appearance has affected many diverse groups of people, including ethnic minority men and women who have reported an increase in body dissatisfaction. This type of advertising can affect an individual of any age, and it would be hard to escape it as social media usage is becoming the norm of communication.

Loneliness is one of the leading causes of internet overuse. This is because an individual lacking a satisfying social life has a higher chance of turning to social media to feel a sense of inclusion, as it provides users with the ability to connect with others on different levels. Stepping back and thinking about the big picture, allowing social media to define your level of social interaction is detrimental to the individual suffering from loneliness. A recent study found that the quantity of Facebook usage predicted a serious decline in mental health. Over a 2-year period, it was found that the more individuals used Facebook, the more their life satisfaction levels declined. In addition to this, a double-blind randomized study found that people who used Facebook more than usual for a week experienced an increase in feelings of depression and a decrease in subjective well-being.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

The overarching goal of this essay was to provide an in-depth analysis of the impact of social media on mental health, with a view to using this analysis to draw up solutions to the wide and varied range of issues faced by those who are known as digital natives anywhere from the age of 13 to 24, due to the fact that around 90% of this demographic regularly use at least one form of social media. This demographic increase has brought about a social media revolution in terms of increased interconnectivity and slower generational lifestyle changes. With the limited amount of available literature across various fields on the issue, this essay aimed to effectively set up a baseline of knowledge in this area which would allow future research to expand into solutions to the issues faced by following this particular demographic. This essay began by identifying the mental health of the demographic in terms of a new age of global mental health crisis. This was identified through the confluence of increased levels of mental health issues in Western nations with the high variance in mental health issues across demographics in developing nations. This led to the establishment of social media as a causal factor due to its omnipresence and the time taken out of the real world to partake in it by the demographic. The essay then identified social media as a possible positive force towards mental health before detailing the issues faced by the particular demographic across cyberbullying, fear of missing out, and the repetitive trend of creating and curating a digital identity on social media platforms.

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