I’ve often wondered about the effects of social media use. My roles as a technology manager, professor, observer of human behavior, and parent put the topic of social media squarely in my sights. I recently read an excellent article from the BBC on the effects of social media use, and while it was not scholarly, it summarizes much of the current research.
Does Twitter cause anxiety or let us cope with it better? Do people’s moods increase or decrease after using social media? Does use of social media cause depression? It’s interesting because much of the scholarly research is inconclusive and contradictory. While I haven’t gone to the source articles (yet), I’m curious why we don’t have a solid base of literature on this topic considering the massive amount of time the billions of our people spend on it. Is our lack of curiosity because we are afraid of the answer?
I walk across campus and have to dodge students who have their noses in their devices as they walk. Virtually ALL of them are engrossed in the latest tweet or Facebook posts from their friends. I wonder what this behavior, which appears to be an addiction, is doing to their young minds. My experience is that most of what is published on social media is banal minutiae, which creates another question – WHY?
Microsoft developed some tools to analyze Twitter profiles for depressive language, linguistic style, engagement and emotion and were able to predict depression prior to symptoms in seven out of ten cases. That’s pretty good if true. After I finish my dissertation this semester, this may be a topic that I would like to pick up and study further. There may be some interesting ways to collect data on this topic using “apps.” Hmm.