Methods: This study utilized a mixed methods exploratory design (n=114, 66% male, 77% Caucasian) aimed at generating an understanding of the influence of social media on NSSI. Participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (Mturk) and were compensated for completing a screening measure and, if eligible, the main survey which contained various measures looking at mental health issues, substance use, trauma, and social media usage. This analysis utilized the question: how often do individuals access NSSI-related online support groups. We examined the responses to these specific questions in relation to pain tolerance, depression symptomatology, and preoccupation with NSSI. Ninety-three (n=93) participants completed this measure and the results of which are discussed below.
Results: For individuals who stated that they accessed NSSI-related online support groups at least once per week (47%), also indicated that they need to ‘mix up’ their self-harming methods to achieve the same desired calming effect. However, for this same group they indicated that they felt the same level of pain as they did when they first began their NSSI behavior. Nearly 68% of participants scored in the major depression range on the CES-D and cross-tabs revealed that 44 of those in the major depression category accessed NSSI-related online support groups at least once per week. For those who accessed the NSSI online groups daily, 28 indicated that they needed to self-injure more than they did in the beginning to obtain the same desired calming effect. Finally, 34 of those who engaged in daily access of NSSI online groups also spent at least 1-3 hours per day occupied by ideas, thoughts, impulses, and images related to NSSI.
Conclusions and Implications: The results of this study point to the need for social workers to stay abreast of their client’s use of social media, particularly those who are being treated for NSSI behavior or those who may be at risk. Further, these results coincide with previous research that postulated that individuals engaging in NSSI seek out online support groups because they may feel like ‘loners’ (Adler & Adler, 2008). Improving prevention and intervention will depend on future research that increases understanding of how and why those who engage in NSSI are posting on social media, examines individual preoccupation with NSSI thoughts and images, as well as taking a deeper dive into individuals’ levels of pain tolerance related to NSSI.