The Social Media Divide: Online social networking habits of young males and the possible influences on wellbeing and help seeking behaviour

Presentation First Author: 
Paul Best

Are the effects of social media technology good, bad or neutral? In recent times a growing body of academic research has been devoted to answering this question. As the largest consumer of social media technologies, young people likely to be particularly vulnerable to its effects. While early studies warned of increased social isolation, in more recent times a gradual softening in opinion has produced a wide range of social media advocates. From practitioners to parents, the social media divide is a current and pertinent issue relevant to the mental wellbeing of young people. This presentation seeks to deviate from rather sterile positives vs. negatives of social media research by focusing on the experiences of the young people who use them. What are the supportive roles (if any) of online friends? Is online technology used to seek out stigmatising health information? And can social media technology be used to promote ehealth initiatives? These are some of the questions that this research study seeks to help answer. The presentation will report the preliminary findings of a mixed method project with over 500 male young people aged 14 - 16 years in Northern Ireland. Current issues regarding male mental health have provided the impetus for the current research. This currently under-represented age group within the literature provides a unique opportunity to uncover the networking habits of a generation that has grown up with social media technology. The mixed method design involved two distinct phases; (1) Social Media and Wellbeing Survey (n= 527) and (2) Focus Group Interviews (n= 8). During Phase 1 the authors combined questions on social media usage, online friendships and online health seeking with validated instruments measuring mental well-being and self-efficacy. These areas were then explored in more depth during focus group sessions with a total of 48 individuals. Phase 1 results reported that over one third of respondents had spoken to online friends about personal problems. A statistically significant positive correlation (p

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
November, 2013
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