Youth and Social Media Research

Coming out of a decision science lab before I joined GEMH as a PhD student, my mind was computational model-oriented. How might the way in which we—and young people specifically—sample social information around us feed into our cognitive biases, and ultimately lead to mental health issues like depression? I did not end up modelling social information sampling during my PhD, but the mindset that I came in with did bring me to social media. After all, that’s where so many youth see, collect, and process social information nowadays.

What started out as ‘oh, social media is just convenient because there’s a lot of social information there’ grew into a deep exploration of young adults and their relationship with social media. Throughout the years of my PhD (2017-2022, specifically) under Prof. Dr. Isabela Granic and Prof. Dr. Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff I have had the chance to develop my own research method, collect heaps of data, and talk to young people from all over the world. On September 12th 2022, my work on this topic culminated in my defending my doctoral dissertation at the Radboud University Nijmegen. If you’re curious to check out my dissertation, you can find it here!

Social media—like any emerging technology—are complex and afford us many boons as well as challenges. For young people, I have found this to be especially true, as so much of their everyday lives is now intertwined with smartphones. Social media are part of our psychological ecosystem, in which our needs may (or may not) be met, and as technologies develop, so do we. I am optimistic that digital technologies (e.g., algorithms) of the future can be shaped to meet our needs and support our wellbeing. This is what I will be working towards having now completed my PhD.

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