sample research proposal

sample research proposal

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

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1. Introduction

In recent years, the use of social media has engulfed the lives of many through constant use of mobile devices and various forms of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and online communities where people can gather and discuss events. Much speculation has arisen regarding the impact of social media on the mental health of its users, and the aim of this essay is to create an informed judgment on the given issue. By ‘mental health’, this essay encompasses both emotional and psychological well-being. The degrees of impact will be evaluated, and potential ways to offset any negative effects will be considered. A balanced consideration of the evidence will be provided, and any evidence to the contrary will be noted. Though many definitions of social media exist, the essay will define it as online communities and social networking sites, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Mobile phones and the internet have allowed for rapid access to online information, and this has facilitated widespread use of online resources to communicate and exchange information. Social networking sites cater to various forms of communication, and they allow users to create public profiles within the said website and designate lists of users with whom they share a connection, or view and traverse their lists of connections and those made by others within the system. The essay will mainly deal with the reinforcement and portrayal of such connections, involving the exhibition of one’s online persona.

2. Literature Review

Eligibility criteria were made in order to ensure that only the most relevant articles would be used in this review. The criteria for inclusion were: studies that tested psychological variables, studies conducted on humans, a minimum age of 18-29, written in the English language, and extensive results on the effects of social media on psychological variables. The reasoning for not using adolescents as the chosen age group is that many adolescents tend to not use traditional forms of communication (i.e., phone, face to face). We would like to see the impact this has on ages above 18 who have grown up with the technology revolution.

The methodical conducted review encompassed exploring online the psychological effects that social media has on mental health amongst young adults. This was facilitated through conducting keyword searches on two databases, which generated a total of 30 articles. For the search strategy, a combination of MeSH terms was used to find the most comprehensive number of articles. The MeSH terms used were: “Internet,” “Facebook,” “Depression,” “Young adult,” “Body image,” “Eating disorder,” and “Self-esteem.” It was decided that the age group selected would be young adults, as this is the time when the stress of being accepted and liked by others is most prevalent. This is also the same age group for students attending university. This would give the reviewer a better understanding of the adverse effects that social media has on students who may be procrastinating while on Facebook or social networking sites (SNS).

3. Methodology

This study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada. Data was collected in Edmonton secondary schools and included 83 students. Informed consent was obtained by the students and their parents and legal guardians. This was obtained via a consent form that was given to the students to take home. This provided a protocol for gaining permission from parents. This involves a passive consent procedure where parents must phone the school and give consent verbally. This complies with the Research Ethics Committee as it is mainly used for studies involving minors, thus gaining consent from the legal guardian is the primary objective. An active consent procedure was obtained by 5 of the participating students whose parents requested to read and sign the consent form to partake in the study. This consent form conducted the same procedure although it was done by the parents signing the form and having the student return it to school. An information letter on the study was given to all students to take home and was translated in languages other than English to facilitate understanding for immigrant parents. This letter was also given to the 18-year-old students whose parents did not provide consent to inform them on the study and that they may choose to be a part of it upon their own decision as they are of legal age. This provided an option to the adults who did not want to sign a consent form but still allowed their child to partake in the study. The data collection was conducted by the author over a course of three months, with approximately 10-20 hours per week spent in Edmonton secondary schools. This involved qualitative interviews and unobtrusive observations to provide insights into the influence of social media on the adolescent audience. These methods were used to create a safe, confidential environment for the student to express their thoughts and experiences with social media and did not put any pressures on the students to disclose information. This was especially important with the sensitive nature of the topic and the fact that students may feel vulnerable discussing topics on mental health. This sought information on private experiences in public and was gathered from 46 students.

4. Findings and Analysis

4.1 Are there gender differences? Some studies have indicated that there are differences in the way men and women use social networking sites (SNS) and the impact it has on them, while others have not. At this stage, it is difficult to make any firm conclusions or generalizations regarding gender differences. However, there are a few findings that have been put forward. In a study exploring the potential for SNS to be used as a tool to lower subjective well-being and increase depressive and anxiety symptoms in males and females, Smith and Christakis (2008) found that compared with offline interactions, the use of SNS was negatively associated with well-being in both males and females. However, the magnitude of this association was stronger for females. This is an interesting finding, yet has not been replicated, and so no real conclusions can be drawn. Another study reflecting upon how emotion is expressed in status updates and how this can be a predictor for depression found that while emotional expression was an accurate predictor of depression in both male and female participants, the social feedback seeking prediction was only significant for the female participants. Again, this is an interesting finding; however, it is not enough to come to any solid conclusions regarding gender differences and the impact of SNS on mental health. 4.2 Is there the potential for positive effects on mental health? While the majority of research investigating SNS and mental health has tended to focus on the potential negative effects, some studies have looked at whether there are ways in which SNS could be used to positively impact psychological well-being and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is an important area of research to consider, especially if SNS is something that is not going to go away and is continuously on the rise. It would be much easier to integrate the use of SNS as a part of everyday life if there were evidence suggesting that there are methods which could be used to harness its potential communicative benefits in a way that was not detrimental to an individual’s mental health. Steers and Wickman (2018) conducted a study which demonstrated the potential for a positive feedback loop when using SNS to facilitate social comparison with others who have overcome adversity. This resulted in increased hope, happiness, and life satisfaction in those who were exposed to counter attitudinal stories. This is just one example, and while it may be a stretch to suggest that SNS could be an effective platform for interventions to reduce anxiety and depression, it is still an important area to consider and potentially evidence a way in which the use of SNS could be redirected to avoid some of the negative consequences that have been uncovered.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

In a nutshell, anything related to mental health on social media, particularly among adolescents, must be supervised carefully. Social media should provide the right and accurate information about mental illness and emphasize those who are suffering from this problem. This will indirectly eliminate the stigma in the community on the issue of mental health and facilitate help-seeking behavior among the sufferers. There is also a need to set up a mental health literacy program through social media. This program aims to provide education and understanding about mental health for the public so that they can identify mental health problems that occur in themselves or others. A study conducted in Australia found that improving mental health literacy can increase the likelihood of a person seeking therapy from a mental health expert. This can be a good start in preventing mental illness among our adolescents today.

Mental health problems have been increasing among adolescence. There is a possibility that social media can mostly be attributed to the increase of psychological problems, such as mood disorders, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a decrease in self-esteem, which can later influence self-harming and even suicide. Social media plays a very important role today, especially among adolescents. Thus, inappropriate usage of social media will have an effect on their psychological well-being, but if used in a proper way, it may bring positive outcomes.

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