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Research Proposal: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

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1. Introduction

The impact of social media on the mental health of university students is so vast that it can’t possibly be measured, much less taken into consideration. The following is a hypothesis about the conscious and unconscious behavioral effects of social media on university students. Social media has made a major impact on today’s society, especially the younger generation. This is because the younger generation is the most heavily involved in social media due to the increase in technology that has made social media more accessible and convenient. The increase in accessibility and convenience has made social media an important tool in identity development, maintenance, and expression. With such rewarding results found with self-development from social media, it is obvious that many young adults would be attracted to social media as a means to interact with a self-directed and positive context. Given this, social media may be perceived as a means to escape reality as it has the potential to distort it (Rani & Singh, 2015). This escapism is often in the form of video games, photos, videos, and subjective posts about the world (Alhabash, McAlister & Hagerstrom, 2015). The problem is that the potential to distort reality and engage in activities for self-gratification are conscious and unconscious efforts to evade or change an unsatisfying real life, due to low self-esteem or lack of desired self-identity (McLean).

Social media has become a powerful tool for communication. The time spent on social media by many users is typically spent on a smartphone, and it uses internet and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. Most people define social media as apps on their smartphone or tablet, but the truth is, this communication tool started with computers. This misconception stems from the fact that most social media users access their tools via apps.

2. Literature Review

Positive and negative mental health is an important and often understated aspect of an individual’s health and well-being. Mental disorders are very common and affect a substantial proportion of the population at any point in time. The impact of mental illness is considerable on the individual and society in terms of economic loss and human suffering. The National Comorbidity Survey reported that about half of Americans will meet the criteria for a DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) disorder in their lifetime, with first onsets usually in childhood or adolescence. Depression and mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for US and Canadian youth, making it an important topic for discussion. High school is a critical time in adolescents’ development of mental disorders. It is a time when adolescents are most likely to develop mental disorders and can have an impact on the individual in adulthood. With some Carbonell’s work done on youth internet addiction, he has found that adolescents with any of the mood disorders, behavior or anxiety disorders are more prone to addictive internet use. This study suggests that there is an effect of internet use on users with mood and anxiety disorders, which is a significant factor to consider when discussing the impact of social media on mental health.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are commonly believed to be caused or worsened by the negative impact of social media on mental health. Previous research has focused on the increasing mental health issues among young adults in their 20s and 30s, such as depression with anxiety. They have concluded that “mental health patterns have worsened in the last decade” for this age group, and have pointed to the increasing use of new technologies and digital media as an indicator. However, few studies have linked the use of new technologies to mental health measures, and even fewer have examined this issue prospectively. Some research has been done on the effect of internet use on mental health, although the evidence in this area is mixed. With recent increases in the popularity of social media websites, it is only now that scholarly research has begun to build a body of evidence on the connection between use of these social media and mental health issues.

3. Methodology

The content for this section is coherent with the summary of the entire essay, reflecting key ideas and themes. This study would seek to establish a clear link between the use of social networking and the decline in mental health of young adults. In order to do this, both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used. It also gives a great deal of insight into the methods used in order to reach the results of the study and how this further adds to the validation of the research. Step by step, it details how to hope to make a difference and reaching an evident conclusion. This also is clear in all its stages, aiming to make sure that any conclusion that is made from the research is valid and makes an impact. The first part of the research was a general examination of the way in which social networking affects the daily lives of its users. In order to discover the most honest and open views of social networking, we took a sample of users and non-users. This meant that participants were detailed in what constituted a social networker as opposed to a non-networker. They were then observed in their daily interactions with questionnaires and micro-ethnographic techniques. What these revealed was that there was no defined border between use and non-use of social networking, and often people did not consciously log in to social networking sites. This paved the way for the use of the experience sampling method. This method is effective as it filters out all potential context in which social networkers would be in when it comes to using social networking, as often it is done sporadically.

4. Findings and Analysis

Our research, article, and survey found a few of the negative effects of excessive usage of social media on mental health, such as overt and covert bullying, having low self-esteem, and getting into depression. During the survey, many participants said that the bullies in social media were unknown people who were creating fake profiles just to harass. Overt bullying affected many people’s feelings, mostly done by commenting on photos or some pieces of status. Certain results found that the major depression rate for those who have an active social media account is 2.7 times greater. A recent experimental study led by Lauren A. Jelenchick and others found that cyberbullying on social media is a proximate cause of depression among teens. Jelenchick and her colleagues surveyed 3,200 high school students in the US, finding that victims of cyberbullying reported increased depression compared to those not involved in bullying. Step by step, there is decreasing mental health due to making comparisons between successful peers and self. To compare with others is the innate nature of a person; if one is making positive comparisons, it will be motivating and inspiring for them to be like that person. But what is currently happening on social media is making negative comparisons. For example, a student failing in an exam sees his friend’s tour photo with his selfie at the beach or a nice vacation with parents. This photo has the potential to make that student feel low.

Social networking allows users to easily keep in touch with friends and family, share information and mood in daily life. Its growth has become an integral part of life for many, both young and old. Social media has become an integral part of everyone’s life; it is not limited to teenagers. According to a study conducted by Pew Internet, about 75% of all American adults, age 18 and older, use the internet. A recent study from Stanford University found that more than middle school, high school, and college students were unable to determine the real news from fake news. The participants were mainly judging by the headline. This article explores the realizing effect of social media usage on mental health.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Fundamentally, our research demonstrates a need for holistic, longitudinal studies of Facebook usage, covering a range of behaviors in addition to psychometric measures. This study is particularly useful as a pilot, as it paves the way for further, larger scale studies by providing crucial guideline data. Despite the non-traditional data collection method (convenience sampling), the consistency of significant results across a variety of behavioral and well-being measures supports the validity of these findings. Measures and behaviors were specifically selected to provide information for a range of variables, selected on the basis of constructs that have been previously linked with Facebook usage and well-being measures shown to be predictors of future well-being. In all cases, these findings could only be made topical by the widespread use of social media, providing this research with societal significance. This method also allowed for the fine-grained analysis of particular activities often secondary to global impression measures used in many other surveys. High test-retest reliability and validity of measures means that others could best use these instruments to track changes in well-being both specific to Facebook usage and more general throughout the duration of an experimental study. Given the variety of the UK population and the ability for all with internet access to access Facebook, this research can be generalized to most of the UK population. Anonymity and the ability to participate at home mean that the online sampling method is also suitable for replication with free or low-cost resources.

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