Research Proposal: Is Extended Consumption of Social Media Linked to Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults?

Instant connections. That’s what new age social media promises us; we will always be connected to each other, to strangers, to our networks, and to our ideas. But with Integrais the incredible rise of the use of digital social networks that took place in the last few years, people have come to rely more on their portable devices for social interactions, and both users and researchers are asking: have we reached the feeling of being more connected, or have we become more isolated?

Is the focused attention on self-promotion related to the rise of anxiety among teenagers and young adults? Or is it the motivation this generation needed to keep up with fast-rising competition? This is what this research strives to answer.

The number of American adults who own a smartphone has doubled in the 4 years between 2011 and 2015 according to a Pew Research report. Smartphones have become essential in how we do most of our daily activities, including chatting and texting with our friends and family, and posting on social media.

By taking a look at usage patterns and behaviors of internet users between adolescence and adulthood (13-25 years old), a better understanding about the ties between the two issues will develop. Whether a causation or correlation occurs between rise of social anxiety and depression among teens and adults, and the digitalization of social connection.

The subject of interactive behavior on social media sites has been discussed heavily during the past decade due to many factors:

  1. Type of information: What is being shared and discussed on social media and how it affects participants.
  2. Privacy concerns: When we post online, we contribute into a global record that is not easy to delete, our actions online have consequences that are as fast as our ability to send something out to the world.
  3. Psychological aspects: How users feel while interacting with no one and everyone at the same time. On twitter for example, is the value of what you write calculated by how it makes you feel, or by the response it gets. Does social media make us happier by giving us a window to vent out and share, or limit us by confining our opinions in boxes of what’s popular? Through posting and reading what others post, have we created an ideal experience that can turn devastating if not “post-perfect”?

Researchers have even developed the term iDisorder to describe the stress-related disorders caused by overwhelming the brain with information from social media.

On the topic of social media and anxiety, there are studies supporting different notions. There are many aspects that causes social media users to worry and can cause alienation from the networks that are supposed to connect, few of them can be highlighted in the term FOMO (fear of missing out), the constant feeling of something amazing happening within or outside our circles without having a mean to instantly connect to it, because we live in a time when a lot of amazing things happen very fast, we need to constantly feel on top of things.

Another aspect of anxiety in the new age is the “am i good enough?” questions. Am I good enough to compete in this ever-growing community of great talents? Do I know the right people to help me get where I want? Am I taking the right steps to belong in the right circles for me? All these questions are going through minds of young people, these questions didn’t go through younger minds with this intensity and urgency decades ago, add to it the social pressure built within an overly growing network and you might be able to link anxiety to the stressful effects of this type of interactions.

This being the argument accusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other networks of spreading what became a voluntarily heavy responsibility, some researchers argue that social media is not to blame for anxiety, and that as much as it can spread negativity it can also spread happy thoughts and inspire its users to a better mental state.  

These and other angles of anxiety-related disorders and how they might be linked to social networking will be the focus of my research paper. By going in-depth into anxiety issues among social media users, the results reached will hopefully give a clearer perspective of how involved certain patterns of social media consumption is with these issues of anxiety.

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