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Effects of Social Media on Adolescent Females' Mental Health

Info: 11239 words (45 pages) Dissertation
Published: 29th Oct 2021

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Tagged: HealthMediaYoung People


Appearance standards are progressively apparent in societies of today. The ever changing cultural perceptions of feminine beauty allow a sizeable minority of women to acclimate differently to each beauty trend, especially in the context of the slim female form. Historically, mass media representations of women seem to mirror patterns of disordered eating, when new and extreme diets were introduced the portrayed figure of the sex symbol trimmed down dramatically. According to Boskind-White & White (1983) during this time the highest report of disordered eating took place in the 1980s, the period of which the ideal woman was thinnest in US History. Mazur (1986) states that perceptions of feminine body ideals are constantly changing, this is most apparent amongst young women. Mazur (1986) found after following trends in feminine beauty throughout the 20th century that there were significant patterns in the matching of these trends to disordered eating behaviour’s such as bulimia and anorexia.

Presently, social media has had momentous influence on the multifaceted experience of modern life. The social media epidemic means that users are now manipulated by trends constantly. The coming of social media’s growth and amplification is unstoppable at present, recent technological advancements allow the platform Web 2.0, to equip modern society with set of online tools.

The tools provide by Web 2.0 allows users to share, edit and create content whilst also communication and interacting with one another. These technological advancements have exceedingly altered the online environment; online social interaction has become a fundamental part of a persons daily routine. These influences are just part of the phenomenon changing society at an unprecedented rate. A space, public sphere if you like has been constructed whereby users can exchange ideas, pictures, information and opinions online leading to an increased amount of human-real life interaction facing vanquishing.

Nonetheless, there have and are presently significant indisputable positive influences of social and digital media specifically in terms of politics, education and marketing. As highlighted by Chi (2011) social media has introduced a new wave of social media marketing which in turn has created a connection between brands and consumers which is easily accessible for both, social media marketing offers a much more personal channel for social interaction and user centred networking.

Be that as it may, due to the phenomenon being considerably new there are limited studies that have examined the negative effects of social media applications specifically and the relationship they have with the causing negative effects on the health and well-being on users. A concerning relationship has been indicated between the young populations heavy use of social media and the developing of a depressive disorder. This indication is reliant on extremely limited research. 

The restricted exploration and understanding of the affects is principally concerning in the context of the young adolescent population for the reason that they befall under the most prominent users of social media in the same manner that they are also the segment of the population that are at an incomparably higher risk of developing mental health issues and disordered eating behaviours.

The researcher has found a gap in the literature, it will be filled by practicing a qualitative approach. This dissertation will be investigating the relationship between adolescent females and frequent social media use to fathom the influence it may be having on the state of their well-being and mental health.

Aforesaid, present research displays a limited understanding of specific affects that digital media is having on the adolescent population. Prior research that will be outlined in the literature review section of the paper, will demonstrate how mass media has focused on depicting body ideals to women and the affects it has had previously on manifesting body concerns amongst women, however as said the existing literature is outdated and the focus is primarily on traditional media leaving digital media unaccounted for in many respects.

Secondary research will be the prominent method of study for the dissertation in hand. Using secondary research as the source of information will provide its limitations. A dominant limitation being the overall scope of the study is seen as limited. The study will not be taking in factoring issues that may be contributing to the mental health and well-bring of the population of users in question. The nature of the topic proved that primary research would not be affective in comparison to secondary, this became apparent during previous research where a survey was constructed. The survey tool itself, proved incapable of assuring that biased answers weren’t provided which could harm the reliability of the study. The response rate of the previous survey was low which again would affect the reliability and not allow the researcher to make a clear assumption. With the time frame allocated the researcher could not construct an honest and trusted relationship with interviewees to ask them regarding the complex and emotive subject of matter which too, would affect the reliability of the research.

As mass media is relevance to the study, secondary research seemed appropriate due to the nature of the subject in the hand. Previous studies and campaigns that have been apparent via mass media medians will be used to aid the findings of the study.

The dissertation will be reviewing current published literature whilst scrutinising and conclusively understanding the role of social in the development of negative mental health and well-being. The study hopes to understand whether social media is becoming as affective as mass media has been on the shaping of body ideals in regards to female adolescents, and how social media use can affect them physically.

The paper will be providing a clear structure of sourced information that will conclude with a focused conclusion by reviewing and incorporating previous literature that will pertain to the characteristics of the study. Theories that have been found to pertain the most significance for the study in hand will be highlighted and revised in the literature review and discussed further against the chosen relative case studies in the discussion section of this paper. The methodology section will help the reader understand the reasoning for the chosen research method and practices providing the understanding of the limitations and advantages of the chosen method in terms of the present study. The discussion part of the paper leading onto the findings and the conclusion will aid the reader in ascertaining the development of the study to the academic assumption and insight to answer the present gap at the near end of the paper. The structure of study as broken down, will allow a clear understanding of the advancing journey the study has taken, guiding the reader chapter by chapter in a concise manner.


The literature review chapter will be revising and assessing the theories that the researcher deems of high significance to the study. Theories both individual and social will used. The Literature Review needs to be read with patience and willingness to understand the prominent factors as they will aid the knowledge of the study and reader and will be mentioned again in the discussion section of the paper. The review will be examining current literature and studies that has focus on social media, objectification theory and adolescent youth. Within the highlighted themes, theories and case studies which under the umbrella of the theme will be discussed. As mentioned, although both mass and social media has been studied to some degree a gap will clearly identified at the end of the literature review. This review will be aiding the study in hand and will along with the discussion and conclusion section of the paper point out the need if any for future studies to be undertaken on the chosen subject matter to aid the well-being and prosperity of the population that are frequent and heavy users of digital media.


Objectification theory can be defined by the explicit and implicit objectification of the female body within Western Culture which can produce a myriad of negative consequences for women, says Calogero, Tangtleff-Dunn and Kevin Thompson (2011). Theory that was developed by Fredrickson and Roberts, and draws upon the perspective of body image from a feminist and sociocultural point of view. The perspective creates an understanding of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction being constructed by contributing factors from cultural gender role ideals. An idea suggested by Fredrickson and Roberts theory is that within Western society both young men and women are socialised differently due to their physical appearance.

The idea poses that young men are taught of strength and confidence whereas young women are taught of sexual attractiveness and physical beauty importance and ideals. These teachings are the primary determinants of their social value, young girls then become submerged into a culture of sexual objectification according to Smolak and Levine (2015).  Young women then begin to internalise messages from said teachings, in particular persuasive possibly objectifying messages which leads to the young women learning to see themselves from the males’ perspective. The internalised messages are then referred to as the term Self-Objectification, which takes place when women begin to conceptualise their body as an object, to be enjoyed and evaluated by others. 

Once this stem of self-objectification begins women will start to experience self consciousness. The female will begin to self-surveillance her body, manifesting to the habitual concept of how they are perceived and recognised by others.

“The continual surveillance and evaluation of one’s own appearance is then to lead to a host of negative psychological outcomes known to affect women”

(Smolak and Levine, 2015).

These profound consequences of surveillance include, appearance anxiety, body shame and reduced awareness of internal bodily states for example; hunger signals. Since the transpiration of Objectification theory there have been an innumerable amount of studies which have further explore the theory, contributing to a widening number of congruent findings and theories which will be reviewed next.


A negative consequence of self-objectification is the emotion of shame. Body shame takes place when on evaluates themselves against an internalised ideal and feel that they have come up short. This state of relative comparison factors in extreme negative emotions toward the body and aspects of which the person believes if changed they will feel better about themselves, less ashamed. Body shame more than often occurs when body surveillance is present. When a woman compares herself to an internalised ideal during body surveillance she obtains a feeling of encouragement for a short while, this does in turn leave the woman feeling defeated and possibly more discontent with their bodies due to the absence of fulfilment of the body ideal that they are subjected to at the time. According to Wolf (1991) the ideal female body is unrealistic and impossible to attain, pointing out that 1 in 40,000 women meet the required measurements of a traditional model.  However, “women’s eagerness to approximate the cultural ideals is understandable given the rewards they reap for attractiveness in heterosexual relationships as well as work settings” (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997). Body shame is most apparent amongst adolescent females, as their bodies are developing so are their foreseen ideas and ideals of what they think they should look like rather than embracing how they do, they are vigilantly aware of their appearance which increases the likeliness of experiencing body shame. The number of women becoming vigilantly aware is increasing. Body shame has been highlighted in brands and society, brands have tried to plant the seed of embracing yourself, your body.

A campaign piloted by Dove 2013 is an example that pertains to objectification theory and also the wanting of ridding of body shame amongst women. “The problem is, we’re so bombarded by unattainable standards of beauty – in magazines, TV, adverts, on social media – that we undervalue the true beauty in ourselves” (Dove, 2013). ‘You’re more beautiful than you think’ and ‘Real Beauty’ aimed to increase self esteem amongst women leaving size and shape unaccounted for throughout the campaign. Women of all sizes and shapes were used throughout the campaign without no mention which ultimately slammed down any fundamental ideas of the perfect female form hoping to leave all women inspired to feel beautiful and body positive. Despite the success of the campaign which reached over 66 million hits on YouTube, the campaign was then disregarded. The brand Dove are owned by Unilever who also own Slim Fast. The brand was said to be practicing the evil its owner somewhat preaches.


“Eating disorders are seen merely as the extreme end of a continuum of this normative discontent. That is, women with anorexia and bulimia, it is argued, are simply resorting to more drastic means of manipulating the body (i.e., starvation and bingeing and purging vs dieting and restrained eating) in order to attain the slim beauty ideal”

(Fredrickson and Roberts, 1977). 

As mentioned, disordered eating is likely to occur when a woman internalized ideals and then uses them as a comparison of self. Disordered eating is one of the few subjective experiences that is caused by ideals depicted in the media, predominately by western cultures. Other subjective experiences can include body shame as previously stated. Disordered eating is a follow through of body shame and poor interceptive awareness that also lead to poor well-being amongst women. If ideals are internalized at a young age, restrained eating and dieting can become part of a female’s life during adolescent in order to achieve what they believe is the ideal body, which is then attempted to be maintained through their life span creating a negative cycle of shame and disordered eating progressing to their adult years. Restrained eating and dieting is factor of shame, women will attempt to alter their bodies and change certain aspects of themselves that do not suffice to the likes of the body ideals that are externalized as well as internalized. Restrained eating leads to a restraint appetite, subconsciously women will suppress the cues for hunger. Internal bodily states will be somewhat suppressed by the female and inattention to cues will lead to a tuned out sense of hunger and insensitivity to bodily cues.  If the bodily cues are tuned out and hunger is at a maximum the general well-being of the female will deteriorate, they may become tired, having disrupted sleep and emotions can be at a high creating feelings of anger, anxiety, and shame – these can then lead to negative affects on the mental health of the women.


According to Merriam Webster (2014), social media can be defined as a form of electronic communication, users create online communities to share content through social networking websites and applications which include; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Social Media is a product of Web 2.0 which is the second developed stage of the Internet, Web 2.0 allowed the change from website to social media where user-generated content is the most popular and used. The term Web 2.0 does not refer to an update to any technical specification, but it changed the way website pages are now used and designed says O’Reilly (2009). Web 2.0 has introduced a second generation of web based communities, allowing active engagement through interactive applications where content is organized and also created. Users of the platform and the social applications are now subjected to content constantly. Most applications allow the user to choose what content they want to see this can happen through choice of friends, followers, followings or tags they may follow however the ‘explore’ option on more applications in particular Instagram allows a range of content that is not filtered to entirely your needs, likes or interests. With the growing number of users and the average of the user becoming younger, the overall capacity of users is unmeasurable. As said by Downey (2012) this high number of users makes content hard to police. With Web 2.0 comes a great ease of sharing values and norms inspiring relationships between one another online, allowing media cultures to be created.  Online communities are then constructed where users are communicating in a group where shared views, values and norms are relatable for users. Support networks are developed, spaces where users can vent feelings, problems or through and more than likely find another whom feels the same. The revolutionary platform facilitates users needs, engagements and allows the promotion of ideas to be shaped and created accessible for the public to be subjected to. 


As said by Festinger (1954) who developed the theory, social comparison takes place when we form evaluations of ourselves when making a comparison to others. There are two types of comparison identified in the theory. Upward social comparison takes place when someone compares themselves to someone who appears to fare better than then, this create feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction of the self which can eventually lead to shame and depression. On the other hand, downward social comparison occurs when someone who is seen as less fortunate whether it be appearance or wealth is compared to oneself, leaving one feeling satisfied and better about themselves. Social comparison creates a purpose of self-assessment, a user begins to subconsciously compare and surveillance the differences that fare them in contrast to others. A habitual surveillance of social comparison can reciprocate the same emotions felt with self-objectification and the consequences can lead to disordered eating behavior.


Displacement theory argues that said negative affects are not entirely down to frequent social media use and consumption. The theory believes it’s the replacement social media takes ono other activities. Face-to-face interaction which is becoming an activity of the past. When a user focuses on their device they are cancelling out real life interaction and communication with others, the user becomes so wrapped up in their platform they seclude themselves from the surroundings they are in at that time. They lose touch of where they are and who they with, as their focus is predominantly on what is happening on their screen. Instead of indulging in conversation they are indulging in likes, comments and updates from their social media applications. At the time the user is in belief that they are fulfilling the need of interaction through their device alas they are not, secluding oneself from the environment they are in with friends and lack of human interaction can cause feelings of anxiety, loneliness and confusion.

The user believes they have less time for face-to-face interaction and physical activity, both are which are said to be proven to protective against mental disorders according to (Martinsen, 2008). Both real life social interaction and exercise play a critical part in reducing the likeliness of developing mental health problems and negative well-being issues.  A study conducted by Ono et al. in (2011) highlighted that the number of face-to-face social interaction positively correlated to the improvement of individual mental health.


 Social media applications within the digital platform have their known uses for example; checking accounts, keeping updated with news, instant messaging and posting content. The theory argues that when users consume media it is for a purpose, they hope to receive something in turn this could be a reward or gratification says (Blumler, 1979).  The theory can have different meanings under the names of many platforms due to most applications having a focused use. Users create goals which can be conscious or non conscious. A conscious goal may be when a user signs in to an online social media account, Facebook the goal would be to upload a photo of themselves or a holiday. On the other hand, a non conscious goal would take place when a user would log in and see if any of friends or followers had communicated with them. Socializing online can allow a user to feel feelings of self-enhancement at the time. If a user takes on one of these goals and feels unfulfilled, with no communication from friends or likes and comments they may experience negative feelings which weaken one’s behaviour. The user is not fulfilled emotionally from their sign in online leaving them feeling secluded and possibly not good enough, this can then lead to self surveillance, social comparison and acclimate to shame.  Social media applications can give a user instant rewards, making them feel good for doing nothing of real value. In real life the user then believes they should be receiving the same level of reward for level of work, subconsciously leading themselves astray of fulfilment and purpose. As humans our natural reward circuitry is left amiss and wasted. As users, we begin to believe that all the time spent on this junk activity is rewarding and worth it, when ultimately we are loosing out on feeling the wealth of a real human life reward.


The transition of young person going through puberty to develop to an adult is termed Adolescence. These years are crucial in planting the seed for the future life span of said person. During these years’ confidence, relationships and experiences will be explored and built to help said person identify themselves as an adult and emerge into the world as one.  The experiences one makes ground them for their futures, finding new hobbies and enjoyed activates can help choices for future goals. Before the phenomena of social media adolescents would tend to be outside more often, building relationships in and out of school advancing their communication skills. At present with the social media phenomena in full swing said adolescents are now spending most of their time on social media applications, becoming the part of the population that are amongst the most avid users of said media. It is also alarming to see the likelihood of mental illness and negative well-being amongst adolescent to young adult.  As stated by Grant and Potenza (2010) whom study found that one in four young adults experience a depressive state between 18 and 24 years of age. Just before this term of age, the young adult is developing which illuminates the importance for adolescents to ensure they are developing as they should be in terms of relationships and social interaction. Adolescence is a crucial time in a person’s life, emerging on to adulthood and somewhat setting the pace for their future life as an adult.


As said, emerging adulthood is a crucial time for adolescents. Developmental tasks reflect the development of a person within the beliefs and values presented at that time and place. An adolescent is expected to do well in education whilst creating close friendships both in turn create confidence in the emergence of the young adult, advancing to creating romantic relationships, gaining employment and eventually starting a family. As the developmental stage of one’s adolescent changes in tune with the cultural values at said time, the tasks advance in different ways for the person. With cultural change, tasks can be extended or now even vanquished causing greater negative consequences for the adolescent. Presently, with digital media allowing ease of interaction, self presentation and ideas to be shaped and molded by individual users creating online relationships has caused a lack of social face-to-face interaction between people. This lack of interaction coming in to play at a young age sews the consequences for the emerging young adult. Said adolescent, dismays the development of shared social values in real life, losing values of close friendships, romantic relationships and expiatory experiences which allow one to identify themselves and who they want to be. 


The literature reviewed, revised both current and previous studies with the focus on the connection between frequent social media use and the potential harmful affects it may be having on its users. The consequences heavy use may have on young adults can plague a person throughout their lifespan, without awareness of the dangers these profound consequences cause is only going become more occurring and dangerous as digital media carries on changing the multi-facets of life as we know it.

The indication as stated in the review indicated that the depiction of ‘ideal beauty’ content found in the media does have a relationship with mental and physical health problems. The relationship has not been observed with focus on the digital media, smart phone application Instagram against traditional means of mass media content.

The review discussed traditional medias glorification on the ideals and the impact it can and has had on female self-esteem. With focus within the three main relative themes above, the focus on individual and social level theories this study hopes that complexity of this relationship has been highlighted.

The theories and studies mentioned in the review are relative to the study in hand and play a role in illuminating this concerning connection between use and user. This study could not cover every theory that could be used in explaining the role of social media in the relationship as stated.

There are many factors that can not be taken in consideration for the study, as the subject matter is of some extreme personal behaviour mannerisms, other factors that could correlate to poor mental and physical health are not taken in to consideration, however the author believes with the literature revised above and the furthering of the study are more than applicable for the subject and will positively aid the study and the educated assumption that the research hopes to come to.

Due to the complex nature of the relationship at hand it is challenging to address the connection thoroughly while controlling for confounding variables. It is important to note that causality has not been proven, and that many of the topics and theories that have been reviewed and presented in the dissertation are merely potential explanations for an observed connection made by the author.

Aforementioned, Brandwatch (2017) indicated that women are heavily engaged in social media platforms and applications and that this is due to the aggressive growth of social media which has resulted in it now becoming inevitable for women to diffuse engaging in social comparison. Evidently, from the review it has become clear that social comparison is a destructive mechanism that can cause feelings of depression and body dissatisfaction amongst women.

The author hope stops further examine how destructive this aggressive engagement is between both factors, young women and media. Also a gap exists for extra research to investigate whether social media is having a more cataclysmic affect in comparison to mass media. The author hopes to fill this gap, with focused study on the affects of Instagram on body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and mental health issues amongst female adolescent users. 


In this chapter the methodology of the research will be discussed. The discussion will include reasoning for the selected practice of methods and procedures. The chosen method is Qualitative; the method provides factual data to support the theories mentioned. Qualitative method helps construct an understanding relative to aspects of social life.  The thesis will be critically assessing relative theories, findings and methods from existing research literature, synthesizing meanings from multiple studies in a particular case studies to make an educated assumption for the conclusion chapter of the dissertation. The purpose of conducting this research is to evaluate the current relationship between frequent use of social media and the affects it can have on an adolescent females well-being and mental health. This dissertation will be comprehensively examining material of previous studies that is relative to the study. The thesis will be undertaking the use of secondary research which will create a basis to interpret why this current relationship developed and its it more platonically affecting users that we think. The sources will be used to create a new theoretical assumption for the purpose of the conclusion of the study. An educated assumption will be created for the reader to understand the progression of this relationship and it will expand to help understand the effectiveness between traditional media versus digital. As mentioned a secondary approach will be used instead of primary, the researcher tried a questionnaire previously and found that the limitations proved to affect the study negatively, so much so that secondary procedures are more reliable for the complexity of the study at hand. Case studies will be the main focus of the method revised, appropriate theories will also be analysed and assessed.

The research was previously going to use a primary method of research, but soon came across limitations that could ultimately put the study into suffer, negatively affecting the results and importantly the reliability of the study. The limitations that were highlighted previously were; people being disinterested in conducting the questionnaire, along with being hesitant to give information in case they thought their information would be posted or published somewhere without consent even when the ethics were explained. The response rate of the survey itself was low which would in turn affect the reliability of the result and study itself. The mentioned nature of the study also presented an issue with the allocated time frame, with a subject as personal and emotive as this the study would not have the appropriate time to entirely understand the health of the interviewees. In addition, it would be difficult to make assumptions on the well being of the interviewees without taking other factors in to consideration, which could be too personal and emotive. With no sense of trust ascertained between the researcher and the interviewee, reluctant and biased responses could ultimately affect the study negatively. The ethics of using primary data would not have been an issue for the study as the previous method of study the researcher did draw up the points of an ethically correct course of study. As the research method would have been using humans as subjects the researcher would have to explain well and clearly the point of study and also the anonymity that was available for the subjects to ensure confidentiality of data.

Using secondary data proved to save efforts, expenses and has always saved time as said by (Ghauri, 2005). in contrast to primary data. The researcher found a number or relevant studies that will be used to determine the outcome of the study. The author found a number of available of studies to use again, aiding the chosen methodological approach. Due to the collection of available relative studies, one can analyse and come to new relevant conclusions. Using a number of reliable and readily available secondary research sources, allows the researcher to draw an educated assumption based on a number of of academic sources. The reliability of said academic sources will be trusted and further investigated for the purpose of the research question. The case studies that have been chosen for the critical assessing which will take place in the discussion section, have been chosen as they are well suited and relative to the study in hand, the combination of the studies in the discussion chapter have not been used against one another before, the researcher believes with a critical comparison and coming together of said studies a highly reliable academically based assumption can be made and a answer to fill the research gap will be understood. Using secondary studies as a means of research methods, means that the ethics side of study will have already been taken out amongst the original study, saving time for the current researcher. The reliability, however will have been checked over making sure the studies included in the next chapter are of high assurance of reliability. Secondary data being readably available to the public also brings a more analysed set of data which have been collected by funded studies that may have had more time to critically analyse in –depth the population they were studying at the time, if applicable to the study in hand the results could be more accurate than that from primary research. Re-analysing data from secondary sources can also bring to light new insightful discoveries.

Aforementioned, there are limited studies with focus of the relationship of social media on a specific population which is used as a study variable in this research. This gap has determined the study itself and the research hopes to fill said gap. The shortcomings of this dissertation and the current research lies the inability to examine all present factors that may contribute to the relationship between social media use and mental health. Using secondary research provides a number of limitations will include primarily, that the chosen secondary data could be restrictive. If one country, population or certain age were interviewed the study results could lack an overall result that could aid the study in a more reliable manner. A more representative cross-section of a population could have given more informative results for discussion. However due to time and cost limitations a primary research method as a point of study would have not worked especially with the proven worry of reliability and non biased results. The generalizability of results will not be as generalizable against other populations as the studies chosen are applicable specifically to the subject that is of importance in this study, a comparison of finding against a different population should not be taken as it would not be valid. When data is collected by oneself as primary data, it is collected with an idea of study in mind that the data meets the objectives of. Secondary data will provide a study with a great amount of information but not all can be appropriate. If the data used is outdated, taken out on a different population that could be age or country it then becomes inappropriate toward the study in hand.

Taking the limitations carefully into consideration, the case studies and theories that will be applied to means of study will be carefully chosen to critically compare to the relativeness of the study in hand. The reliability and validity of the studies chosen will be ensured to aid the study of its own reliability. Throughout the discussion chapter of the dissertation, the author will clearly speak through and analyse the studies chosen for the beneficiary of the study and the reader. The discussion section of the study will be highly informative. As well as the comparisons and relationships to be made between studies named in the next section, references will have made to the literature review section of the study to again, aid the reader in the following and understanding that will have made in the last section of this thesis. The methodology chosen for the study, has been done with careful consideration. As explained throughout the above section the reasoning’s for the chosen research method are for the benefit of the reader and the insight to made in the conclusion section of this paper.


As discussed in the literature review that have been numerous studies which have illuminated a possible connection between social media use and negative outcomes such as increased depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviour and loneliness. The possible burgeoning use of social media and the relationship it has with adolescents raises extreme concerns about the possible negative effects of its use. If social media use can be linked to negative outcomes, there needs to more devotion and attention spent on understanding the factors that are associated with negative mental health outcomes and how to ultimately rid of them or at least lessen the likelihood of adopting them. The idea that Internet use may have a negative effect on one’s wellbeing is not new, as said and historically there have been patterns between pictures and ideas depicted in mass media (e.g. magazines, music videos, television) and disordered eating trends. Said patterns have been identified and are correctly present however the subject of the study in hand looks to be filling a gap in the literature. The discussion part of this thesis will be discussing a number of previous studies and academic literature which are relative and appropriate to the study in hand. The case studies include The HomeNet Project and iDisorder, both reliable studies for the research, the chosen studies will provide an academic and educated assumption which will be understood by the reader in the conclusion section of the paper. All studies chosen are of high relevance to depicting the answer to the research question in hand.


The HomeNet Project gave internet access, a phone line, software and a computer to 48 families in Pittsburgh in 1995. The households chosen had no previous experience of Internet access. The study used longitudinal data collection and monitored the families over seven years. The homes chosen were diverse from one another which allowed an informative series of results. The HomeNet Project originally wanted to understand how communication applications could affect human factors, by the using the world wide web cause social implications. The study wanted to also understand the impact of electronic services within a home. An empirical field trial to understand why people used the Internet, how it impacted them and what leads them to use it. Each family received three hours of training before they were left to their own devices with the computer.

The data found within the 48 families recruited, 41 homes showed the heaviest user of the family was the teenager or child. “The median teenager sent almost six times as many electronic mail messages as the median adult”. The measures of internet use between the teenager and adult were so different, the teenager seemed to lead the internet use entirely. However, parents did then enforce limits on their children’s internet use, the real-time communicating and messaging seemed to become the most addictive behaviour among the teenagers. The study concluded that internet use is self-expressive. Users filled their personal needs through the internet. The internet was used as a source of communication, a way to construct and maintain social online relationships. Information and entertainment being at a click of a finger showed great ease and enthusiasm through using the web. Subjects also used the computer to express themselves, writing blogs and joining groups that matched their beliefs and norms. Both adults and teenagers who participated in the study joined groups and websites where they become consistent members of the online virtual groups relative to their interests.

The overall findings of the project found that increased Internet used correlated with decreased family communication. The study concluded that decreased family communication could accumulate to greater feelings of loneliness and depression even if the user is communicating online, in virtual communities the social interaction online may be increased however, offline the prominent decrease has an affect on the decline in the psychological and social well-being of the user. The correlation is particularly significant and reliable, the study did not factor in if users were depressed before receiving the internet access and if so to what extent, it also did not consider other factors that may partake on the users having a negative range of emotion and affects on their well-being. The project did highlight that there is in fact a prominent and heavy user within households which is commonly the child or teenager which both sent more online messages than the adults, a behaviour that was seen to be addictive enough to make several parents limit their children’s use of the internet. The correlation found does signify that high and frequent use of the Internet, replacing face-to-face family interaction did prove a lack in well-being. The findings of this study will be compared and used with the following discussed in this chapter.


As stated by Rosen, Cheever and Carrier (2012). The study of iDisorder did not certify diagnosed psychiatric issues but shows the study of new disorder a combination of psychiatric conditions and maladies which is centred on the way we relate to technology and media, an iDisorder. The term was coined in 2012 by Rosen, Cheever and Carrier and defines the changes to the ability of the brain in processing information and altering a user’s ability to relate to the real world. This changes are due to the use of daily media and technology, the heavy use of media will result in symptoms of psychological disorders which include; stress, sleeplessness and compulsiveness. The user is compulsive in checking in with all their accounts they have online and in updating themselves with information of people they may follow or be friends with, but significantly most check in with friends over online communication rather than face-to-face interaction. When face-to –face interaction does occur the user is almost predominantly focused on their smartphone or media they are with at that time rather than the real life person they be interacting with. The iDisorder is the negative relationship that is caused through the frequent use of social media which breaks down the users well-being and psychological health.

The study surveyed previous literature and Rosen (2012 also added in some of his own research. Rosen (2012) argues that the overreliance on gadgets and web-sites is creating a relationship with technology, a relationship that will causes problems in our psyche. People have now become overly reliant on the Internet, users have become subjected in making frequent use of the web throughout the day, it has become part of one’s routine if not the consistent presence in every part of someone’s day. The phone cannot go ignored even whilst in social company. We as users, become addicted to the cyberspace world.

Rosen (2012) did a previous study on the iGeneration, and also the level of use between different generations compared and their use of their phones. The four generations that were studied are shown in (FIGURE 2) against the percentage who would check their phone, laptop, online accounts every 15 minutes or less. The iGeneration as you can be the lead of both groups and felt moderately or highly anxious when they have not kept frequently updated with their online platforms. One of the iGeneration users said during the study “I feel really anxious, I don’t know if I am missing out on something important, I keep thinking I can’t wait for this to end because I need to check my profiles and messages” this was for a week without a social networking sites. That dependence on technology is not healthy, this dependence is a cause of negative emotion. Creating such a dependence on technology and social networking sites can give someone high expectations of what they would like to receive when they check their accounts this could range from likes, messages or just small updates and interactions. If a user is left feeling a lack of fulfilment, much like they would in other expectations they can feel let down. The dependence that is being constructed and the epidemic of the iDisorder amongst the iGeneration being a cause of anxiety is extremely concerning. Anxiety is a negative psychology issue that can be caused by much greater profound reasons that just not being able to check your Facebook. Feelings of anxiety can lead to a depression disorder, bipolar, antisocial personality disorder and all of which can be means of compulsive behaviour.


There are a significant number of specific cells in the eyes that are sensitive to blue light, which regulate the sense of day and night also the seasons. Melatonin is a major sleep promoting hormone, when blue light is shown to specific cells it travels to the hypothalamus which shuts down the production of melatonin ultimately stimulating you for a long night of little to no sleep. The sleep you may get however, will be diminished and disrupted.  Devices including smartphones and laptops are facing jeopardy, with the high level of blue light our beloved devices emit our sleep cycles are being ruined. The artificial light can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. As light is the most important setter of time for our bodies, when it is first light in morning or dark in the evening are body clocks run rhythmically with the 24hour day. With the obligations of devices, laptops, and even television people are now spending their day constantly surrounded by the glow of the blue light without realizing the effects it is having on not only our body clocks but how these affects acclimate to poor well-being. Being open to the blue throughout the day has it affects but does not match to the negativity we are transposed to when using our devices come night time. The lifestyle that we have adapted to with full use of our all devices means that we now feel we have to check our devices when we have time and most do this before bed or in bed, the underlying consequences of doing this have been found to be ultimately profound on one’s night sleep. “What we are seeing is the emergence of ‘Junk Sleep’ – that is sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs” (Idzikowski, 2007). The term ‘Junk Sleep’ is what Professor Chris Idzikowski refers to when calling out diminished sleep as our gadgets inhibit the production of melatonin and body clocks. Dr. Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, states at a third of 12 to 16 year olds only sleep for four to seven hours a night, the recommended amount of sleep at that age is eights. The sleep council conducted a poll, 1,000 teenage participants took part. Nearly all had a phone or TV, almost a quarter admitted they fall asleep whilst still active on technologies which included, music systems, TV or being on their phones. Sleep is critically importantly for both well-being, mental and physical health especially in the context of adolescents who are emerging as adults and are developing their brains and bodies. It has also been suggested that is a connection between ‘Junk Sleep’ and obesity this can also be down to sleep deprivation leading to more consuming of sugary foods to provide energy boosts.


A sedentary behaviour typically takes place when low metabolic rate activity is underway such as sitting or lying down. Most of these activities include watching television, computer use and general passive recreational activities most importantly phone and internet use. These behaviours’ are persuasive in our society and are amongst the most prominent in and individual’s daily routine. Social media is extremely encouraging of sedentary behaviour, during leisure time a user will check their social media sites and applications frequently to past time or just because they feel strongly that they have and should do so. According to Sanchez-Villegas et al (2008) reducing sedentary behaviours might be an important intervention in treatment and prevention of depressive and anxiety disorders. A number of studies have provided evidence that people with high levels of sedentary behaviour will have an increased likelihood of experiencing a depressive and/or anxiety disorder, this could stem from excessive TV watching and computer use. A longitudinal study conducted by Sanchez-Villegas et al (2008) examined if there was a relationship between TV viewing and computer use, and a risk of a mental disorder such as depression. The findings of the study highlighted that participants with the heaviest use of sedentary habits were a whole 31% more likely to be at risk of a mental disorder. The mental disorders including depression, anxiety, stress and bipolar. Although the likelihood of contracting a depressive or panic disorder has been studied and clearly outlined above, a factor that is just as worrying is the negative effects on one’s well-being of physicality sedentary behaviour can have. The relationship between the the factors, media exposure and obesity is a commonly studied subject. A 4-year longitudinal study that was conducted on age 10 to 15 year olds in the United States found that the number of hours the child viewed television during the day correlated with a significantly higher probability of the child becoming overweight. Although there has been a vast number of studies on the risks of heavy television use and the increase chances of health risks, literature pertaining to the risks of computer use and social media is slightly limited and inconsistent. However, using sedentary behaviour as a case study with the merging of the previously mentioned case studies a cause for concern and comparison has come to light.


As touched upon in the iDisorder section of study, social media use is becoming among the likes of a disorder, an addiction. A study conducted by Harvard University set out to find why, why social media platforms are so addictive and popular. The study aimed to understand why people have become so compelled to share everything about themselves. Through a number of experiments, the researchers learned that giving out information about oneself activates the same part of the brain that is also associated “with the sensation of pleasure, the same pleasure that we get from eating food, getting money or having even having sex” (REF). The researchers asked subjects questions about their opinions whilst being connected to a MRI machine, evidence shows that regions of the brain that were associated with reward were engaged when the subjects spoke about themselves.  Giving information out about ourselves activates the Nucleus Accumbens, an area within the brain that lights up when cocaine of other drugs is ingested. However, its not just the posting that lights up the Nucleus Accumbens it’s the likes and follows that come with social media accounts. The addictive quality of social media, can cause challenged emotion regulation such as a lack of impulse control. Julia Hormes who led a study that linked addictive social media behavior with substance abuse, says that Facebook has especially addictive properties. “New notifications or the latest content on your newsfeed acts as a reward. Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently,” (REF). Hormes continued to argue that the uncertainty about when a new reward is available makes users check back frequently. The findings suggested that disordered social media use is a cause of poor regular emotion which can heighten the likelihood of being susceptive to a vast type of addictions.


In this chapter, interrupted sleep has been discussed and the effects the blue light has on suppressing the melatonin therefore making it harder for one to sleep. This suppression as stated is down to electronics, the wide variation of electronics available and found in homes may include; smartphones, computers, video gam stations and televisions all of watch have an addictive mannerism joined to them. As spoken of in the ‘iDisorder/iGeneration’ section of this chapter it is common for one to check their phone at a high number of times even during short time scales such as 15 minutes this can be done throughout the day or in bed. The emotion of anxiety that is felt when one can not check up on what they perhaps may be missing out on has caused concern, but it is no wonder why we as a generation, population and race have become more susceptible to disorders such an anxiety, bipolar and depression.  When one’s phone or computer does not provide the information within the milliseconds we expect it to we get angry, and impatient. Becoming impatient so quickly at the littlest of things has had a greater affect on how we process big things in real-life. Our minds are meant for nature, human interaction and sleep not touchscreens, online communication and ‘junk sleep’. As these electronics which are commonly used heavily, are actually extraordinarily addictive as humans, withdrawal symptoms are experienced when you are separated from the device much like other addictions. A study conducted by the United Kingdom Anxiety Association studied participants that use social media, the findings of the study found that almost 50% of users got worried and become physically uncomfortable when they are cut off from online networks. Social media withdrawal. The study also found that 65% of participants had sleeping problems after using social media. There is a strong correlation between social media use and anxiety, so it is common for those who are heavy users to experience anxiety but people who may be anxious may be drawn to social media. People with anxiety may find it easier to communicate online, rather than put themselves in what they may see as an uncomfortable situation of going outside in the real world and having social face to face interaction whereas with social media one can communicate from their bed, and can also portray themselves in a different mood, a different personality which may subconsciously help the anxious person feel they are conforming to the ordinarily reality of communicating.

Throughout this discussion the studies that have been discussed for the purpose of the study have been chosen due to the high relevance they should have outlined how the research will come to the conclusion of the research as followed in the next section of the study.  It appears that media consumption from both ends of the spectrum (TV to social media/smart phone use) vastly affects the user. The HomeNet project outlined the worrying high factor of addiction that took place with the young teenagers and the online communication options on the computers that they were provided gave cause for concern when the teens of the family were the heaviest users, sending the most online messages and interacting the most with the Internet service, the teenagers becoming the iGeneration and as explained in the iDisorder case study the anxiety that this particular generation experience when in separation of their smartphone and social media accounts planting the seed for mental disorders through the addiction of their devices. The addiction of the devices becoming a displaced sedentary behaviour adoption, where other health risks such as obesity are at large let alone feelings of anxiety. The case studies laid out in this section have given good reason for the researcher to come to the assumption that they have. The researcher hopes that the reader will have followed this clearly and understood the journey the study feels it has taken them on to reach a similar if not same conclusion as the researcher.

The findings of the study have illuminated the fact that we are the generation that have been surrounded and supplied with internet access growing up meaning for this use to become an inhabited part of everyday life. There are a vast majority of adolescents who are ran by social media, their worlds are on their smartphones and devices. Heavy use of social media has become a disorder, the digital syringe. The similarity to addiction is concerning and consequently a user becomes fearful of missing out, anxious that they are not included in something that may be happening online. A similar feeling with addiction which is down to the certain types of the brain that is lit up in both substance and social media use. A withdrawal, a feeling of being without creating anxiety. Social media now allows us to compare ourselves constantly as discussed in the literature review (social comparison theory). Users believe in a state of false comparison, comparing their lifestyle, relationships, figure and wealth with that of not only friends but the cyber world full of strangers and celebrities. A state of false comparison which is made up of fabricated and filtered reels of content. As previously mentioned in the literature review (by both objectification and social comparison theory) people who internalised and idealise these comparisons are more likely to experience negative emotions of anxiety and depression.  Users that may be predisposed with feelings of an anxiety disorder are more likely to feel insecure and overwhelmed which could take them to the tipping point. However, the researcher believes that it is not just social media use but also the connectivity that users subject themselves to 24/7 which is having adverse affects on the well-being of them.


The main findings from the research, is that social media does have a highly negative affect on the mental health and well-being of its users. In regards to the population that is of focus to the study, Adolescents. The study has found that said population are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders in the emerging adulthood stages of their life which will have a negative affect on their life-cycle. As mentioned in the literature review (Emerging adulthood and development task theory) is it appropriate to say that the years when an adolescent is emerging adulthood is crucial in the adolescent developing the norms and values as well as the skills to communicate face-to-face and build relationships both friendly and romantic which affect their futures. As the adolescents are the heaviest users of social media, the iGeneration they are missing out on the face to face interaction that is of high importance which is having long lasting affects on their experience of disorders and negative emotions.

The dissertation in hand did meet the majority of the aims set out in the introduction, however the researcher does wish that they could of chosen a mixed methods analysis and used a pragmatic approach of study if given more time and a were able to ignore costs as the study is hand the author believes is of high importance in understanding what negative affects social media is happening under the nose of the users and the population and that this development of the ‘iGeneration’ could alter generations to come in living their adolescent life in a healthy balanced manner to avoid the likeliness of developing such negative emotions and affects that have been stated in the discussion section of the study.

If given more time, the study could have been a longitudinal primary research method that could have really helped further the advancement of knowledge with the study of hand. Further research needs to be focused on the adolescents and the generation younger than them adopting the behaviours of knowing how to and relying on social media applications and devices to gain information and knowledge. The iGeneration is developing and it will spread to the next younger generation.  The study that needs to take place needs to understand and consider factors that could predispose users to anxiety and evaluate whether social media is the tipping point.

An in-depth longitudinal study needs to take place monitoring adolescent’s who are emerging adulthood needs to take place to understand how missing out on the crucial developing tasks of becoming an adult, the more adolescents that become addictive to electronics increase the likelihood of anxiety, bipolar and depression let alone the overweight factors of sedentary behaviour. The population does not want this to become an epidemic where heavy reliance on electronics becomes a way of life. Negative disorders will become more than common and that is not a world where kids should be growing up.

The author believes the findings of the study have answered the research question to some extent but if primary research could have been carried out with confidence in the reliability of the results, the pragmatic approach could have been a lot more beneficial to study at hand and the findings.

All in all, the researcher believes that the statement has been answered and has left room for more research to take place to critically understand how these affects can be slowed down or the knowledge can be spread to help users understand the side affect cautions that come with use.


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