Session: Beyond Harmful Impacts of Social Media: Making Social Media Safer for Marginalized Populations (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

38 Beyond Harmful Impacts of Social Media: Making Social Media Safer for Marginalized Populations

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 2:45 PM-3:45 PM
Cluster: Mental Health
Symposium Organizer:
Melanie Sage, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo
Melanie Sage, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo
To keep up with rapid social change related to social media, our field must make active efforts to understand risks, benefits, and interventions related to digital technologies. In this symposium, we discuss current knowledge and gaps regarding social media research, and efforts toward harm reduction and resilience frameworks for high risk and marginalized youth who use social media. Early research on the topic, focused primarily on harms correlated with social media use. The current wave of research is focusing on who is most at risk and under what circumstances, and on benefits associated with social media use. Emerging research focuses on ways to positively intervene in problematic social media use so users can harness benefits. All presenters in this symposium find that users who are most at risk offline are likely to find themselves in cycles of greater risk online, which can affect subsequent wellbeing. The opposite is also true, that those least at risk offline are least at risk online, and most can harness the benefits of technology, thereby potentially improving their well-being. This common social phenomenon is sometimes known as “vicious cycles� and “virtuous cycles.�

Paper one offers a critical review and synthesis of the literature examining the link between digital technology and well-being, with a focus on findings from longitudinal and experimental studies. They find that behavioral mechanisms such as sleep disruption and sedentary behavior, and psychosocial mechanisms such as passive versus active use, cybervictimization, social connectedness, and social comparison, all impact well-being. Additionally, some behaviors such as passive social media use are more likely to result in social comparison, which causes users to miss out on potential benefits of social connectedness, while active participation leads to higher social connectedness. These findings point to the need to explore ways of intervening in problematic online behaviors to interrupt vicious cycles.

Paper two reports efforts to harness social media content about suicide-related postings to improve interventions in a clinical setting. Presenters conducted two studies that explore stakeholder perceptions about automated social media monitoring, and the concordance between automated risk scores and clinician risk ratings. Participants include clinicians, parents, and adolescents. This research found strong motivations for using social media monitoring to reduce risk, and also concerns about privacy. Agreement between automated versus clinical monitoring is reported. This important research moves the field toward considerations for the ways that online screening tools may influence offline interventions.

Paper three reports on a systematic review of the predictors of resilience while using social media. Findings suggest that predictors of resilience are similar offline and online (i.e. self-efficacy, self-regulation, positive coping style, good mental health, and social support). Predictors not typically associated with resilience included active help-seeking strategies in the face of risk, as well as technology skills. Additional findings are that social media can promote resilience, potentially leading to “virtuous cycles� of resilience for adolescents. This research can begin to prepare social workers to build interventions that contribute to resilience, and support well-being online.

* noted as presenting author
Social Media Detection and Monitoring of Suicidal Risk Among Adolescents
Candice Biernisser, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; Janie Zelazny, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; David Brent, MD, University of Pittsburgh
Beyond Social Media Benefits and Harms for Adolescents: Assessing Contributors to Resilience to Inform Interventions
Melanie Sage, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo; Karen Randolph, PhD, Florida State University; Dale Fitch, PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia; Todd Sage, PhD, UB
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