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Revised theory: Social media and mental health
Three Key Components of the Conceptual Model: This conceptual model is made up three components. They are social media usage, mental health and their relationship. Conceptually, the model suggests that too much social media usage can adversely impact mental health.
These are the theoretical concepts: This model includes social comparison, FOMO, self-esteem and social support. Social media makes it easy for people to look at their lives and compare them to others. This can cause feelings of inadequateness or lower self-esteem. FOMO is a fear of missing out on important information or social events. Social media may also be used to provide support and loneliness, or worsen isolation.
Definitions of Operational Indicators and Empirical Definitions:
- Social Media use: This is the amount of time spent on social media (e.g. hours daily, days per week), as well as which platforms are used (e.g. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook). The self-reported frequency and digital device data that track social media usage are both empirical indicators.
- Mental Health is a complex combination of many factors such as anxiety, depression and stress. The Patient Health Questionnaire, (PHQ-9), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) questionnaires are both valid indicators.
- Social Comparison is defined as the degree to which people compare themselves with other users of social media. These indicators can be self-reported and verified measures like the Social Comparison Scale.
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is described as an anxiety- or distress-related condition that occurs when individuals are unable to use social media. The Fear of Missing Out Scale and self-reported FOMO indicators are valid.
- Social Support is defined as how many people receive support via social media. These indicators can be self-reported and verified measures like the Social Support Appraisals Score.
Proposition: Social media excessive use negatively correlates with mental health because of the effects of social comparison (FOMO) and decreased social support.
A mixed-methods research approach could be used to test the proposition. The participants will first be asked to complete self-report measures regarding their use of social media, mental health, social comparability, FOMO and social support. This could be standardized questionnaires like the GAD-7 and PHQ-9 as well as social comparison scales, fear of missing out, and social support appraisals scales.
The next step is to ask participants to install an application on their phones to keep track of their social media activity. It would give objective information about social media usage and help to understand the connection between mental health and social media.
A select group of participants may be interviewed for more detailed information regarding their social media usage and how it affects their mental health. Interview data could provide rich qualitative data that can help contextualize or explain quantitative data.
Researchers could use a mix-methods approach to understand the effects of social media on mental wellbeing and find potential ways to reduce its harmful effects.