Two studies: Social media and social dysfunction

13 Apr

In Dealing With Cyberbullying: 5 Essential Parenting Tips The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had a caution about social media based upon a study.

The AAP reported about the study in the press release, Social Media and Kids, Some Benefits, Some Worries

Pediatricians are adding another topic to their list of questions for visits with school-aged and adolescent patients: Are you on Facebook? Recognizing the increasing importance of all types of media in their young patients’ lives, pediatricians often hear from parents who are concerned about their children’s engagement with social media.

To help address the many effects—both positive and negative—that social media use has on youth and families, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a new clinical report, “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families” in the April issue of Pediatrics (published online March 28). The report offers background on the latest research in this area, and recommendations on how pediatricians, parents and youth can successfully navigate this new mode of communication.

“For some teens and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than at the mall or a friend’s house,” said Gwenn O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP, co-author of the clinical report. “A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and comfortably parent in that world.” See Dr. O’Keefe discussing social media at the following links:

Balancing media use with other activities

Today’s digital kids Don’t fear social media 

The report includes a link to parenting tips, Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting”.

The first study is reported in the Edmonton Journal article, Frequent texters more shallow, racist, study finds:

WINNIPEG – A study at the University of Winnipeg says young people who do a lot of texting tend to be more shallow.

The university says more than 2,300 first-year psychology students were surveyed online for three consecutive years.

The results indicate that students who text frequently place less importance on moral, esthetic and spiritual goals and greater importance on wealth and image.

Here is the press release from the University of Winnipeg:

Study Supports Theory On Teen Texting And Shallow Thought

Posted on: 04/11/13 | Author: Communications | Categories: All Posts

A University of Winnipeg study finds that students who are heavy texters place less importance on moral, aesthetic, and spiritual goals, and greater importance on wealth and image. Those who texted more than 100 times a day were 30 per cent less likely to feel strongly that leading an ethical, principled life was important to them, in comparison to those who texted 50 times or less a day. Higher texting frequency was also consistently associated with higher levels of ethnic prejudice.

The UWinnipeg study involved more than 2,300 introductory psychology students who completed a one hour on-line psychology research survey that included measures of texting frequency, personality traits, and life goals. Data were collected at the beginning of the fall semester for three consecutive years.

“The values and traits most closely associated with texting frequency are surprisingly consistent with Carr’s conjecture that new information and social media technologies may be displacing and discouraging reflective thought,” says Dr. Paul Trapnell, associate professor of psychology at The University of Winnipeg. “We still don’t know the exact cause of these modest but consistent associations, but we think they warrant further study. We were surprised, however, that so little research has been done to directly test this important claim.”

The main goal of the study was to test the so-called ”shallowing hypothesis,” described in the Nicholas Carr bestseller, The Shallows, and by some social neuroscientists. According to the shallowing hypothesis, ultra-brief social media like texting and Twitter encourages rapid, relatively shallow thought and consequently very frequent daily use of such media should be associated with cognitive and moral shallowness. Trapnell and Dr. Lisa Sinclair, professor of psychology at UWinnipeg, also reported significant annual declines since 2006 in first year students’ mean levels of self-reported reflectiveness and openness to experience but not in any other broad personality traits annually measured in their surveys.

Sinclair presented their original findings at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) held in San Diego (2012).

Approximately 30 percent of students reported texting 200 plus times a day. 12 percent reported texting 300 plus times per day. Those who texted frequently also tended to be significantly less reflective than those who texted less often.

More recently, Trapnell and Sinclair took texting into the lab. In their lab study, some students texted, some spoke on cell phones, and some did neither. Then, all students rated how they felt about different social groups. Those who had been texting rated minority groups more negatively than the others did. They presented these results at the 2013 annual SPSP conference held in New Orleans.

Despite these findings, they note that daily immersion in texting, Twitter, and Facebook has not prevented the “digital native” generation of young adults today from becoming more tolerant and accepting of human diversity than any previous generation. Trapnell and Sinclair see little reason for moral panic over “moral shallowing” at the present time, but conclude the topic may warrant greater research attention.

These studies were partially funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

– 30 –


Diane Poulin, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E:

The second study deals with alcohol and anxiety among Facebook users.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore reports in the CNET article, Study: Anxiety and alcohol use linked to Facebook:

In a quest to learn what leads some people to turn to Facebook to connect with others, doctoral student Russell Clayton of the Missouri School of Journalism found that anxiety and alcohol use seem to play a big role.

For his master’s thesis, which appears in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior, Clayton surveyed more than 225 college freshman about two emotions, anxiety and loneliness, and two behaviors, alcohol and marijuana use. He found that the students who reported both higher levels of anxiety and greater alcohol use also appeared the most emotionally connected with Facebook. Those who reported higher levels of loneliness, on the other hand, said they used Facebook to connect with others but were not emotionally connected to it.

It probably isn’t terribly surprising that those who are anxious may feel more emotionally connected to a virtual social setting than a public one, which Clayton acknowledges in a school news release. “Also, when people who are emotionally connected to Facebook view pictures and statuses of their Facebook friends using alcohol, they are more motivated to engage in similar online behaviors in order to fit in socially.”

Marijuana use, on the other hand, predicted the opposite — the absence of emotional connectedness to the site. Clayton has a theory about this as well: “Marijuana use is less normative, meaning fewer people post on Facebook about using it. In turn, people who engage in marijuana use are less likely to be emotionally attached to Facebook.”

Whether Facebook is therapeutic for those feeling anxious is debatable. Last year one study found that people who use social networking sites regularly saw their behaviors change negatively, and that included having trouble disconnecting and relaxing. So the question becomes: Which came first, the anxiety or the networking? 

Related stories

Why teens are tiring of Facebook

Teens: Facebook’s becoming more ‘meh’

Propose and cons: ‘Will you marry me’ meets social media

Here is the press release from the University of Missouri:

Alcohol Use, Anxiety Predict Facebook Use by College Students, MU Study Finds

By Nathan Hurst
MU News Bureau

Columbia, Mo. (April 10, 2013) — With nearly one billion users worldwide, Facebook has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people. Because so many people engage with the website daily, researchers are interested in how emotionally involved Facebook users become with the social networking site and the precursors that lead to Facebook connections with other people. Russell Clayton, now a doctoral student at the Missouri School of Journalism, found that anxiety and alcohol use significantly predict emotional connectedness to Facebook.

Clayton’s master’s thesis, conducted under the supervision of Randall Osborne, Brian Miller, and Crystal Oberle of Texas State University, surveyed more than 225 college freshmen concerning their perceived levels of loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol use and marijuana use in the prediction of emotional connectedness to Facebook and Facebook connections. They found that students who reported higher levels of anxiousness and alcohol use appeared to be more emotionally connected with the social networking site. Clayton and his colleagues also found that students who reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiousness use Facebook as a platform to connect with others.

“People who perceive themselves to be anxious are more likely to want to meet and connect with people online, as opposed to a more social, public setting,” Clayton said. “Also, when people who are emotionally connected to Facebook view pictures and statuses of their Facebook friends using alcohol, they are more motivated to engage in similar online behaviors in order to fit in socially.”

Clayton says that because alcohol use is generally viewed as normative, or socially acceptable, among college students, increased alcohol use may cause an increase in emotional connectedness to Facebook. The researchers also found that marijuana use predicted the opposite: a lack of emotional connectedness with Facebook.

“Marijuana use is less normative, meaning fewer people post on Facebook about using it,” Clayton said. “In turn, people who engage in marijuana use are less likely to be emotionally attached to Facebook.”

Clayton and his fellow researchers also found that students who reported high levels of perceived loneliness were not emotionally connected to Facebook, but use Facebook as a tool to connect with others.

This study was published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior.

Related Articles        


Apr 10, 2013

Moi wrote in Social media addiction:

Moi wonders if anyone is surprised by this development. The UK’s Daily Mail reported about internet addiction among the young  in  Internet Rehab Clinic for ‘Sreenager” Children Hooked on modern technology  In a Movieline interview, Miley gives the reason for closing her Twitter account. According to Miley, It’s Dangerous, It Wastes Your Life, It’s Not Fun Ya, think?

“I was kind of, like, tired of telling everyone what I’m doing,” Cyrus told Movieline. “I hate when I read things and celebrities are complaining like, ‘I have no personal life.’ I’m like, well that’s because you write everything that you’re doing.”

“So I was that person who was like, ‘I’m so sad. I have no real, normal life, everyone knows what I’m doing.’ And I’m like, well that’s my own fault because I’m telling everyone,” Cyrus said. “And then I’d tweet, ‘I’m here,’ and I’d wonder why a thousand fans are outside the restaurant. Well, hello, I just told them. So I’m just, like, kind of thinking doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Everything I’m saying is not really going with what I’m putting on the internet.

Asked if the change has been for the better, Cyrus took a moment to consider, then said, “I’m a lot less on my phone, I’m a little bit more social. I have a lot more real friends as opposed to friends who are on the internet who I’m talking to — which is like not cool, not safe, not fun and most likely not real. I think everything is just better when you’re not so wrapped up in [the internet].”

What  Miley is saying is that she wants the type of social relationships which come from face-to-face contact. In other words, she wants healthier social interactions.

There is something to be said for Cafe Society where people actually meet face-to-face for conversation or the custom of families eating at least one meal together. Time has a good article on The Magic of the Family Meal See, also Family Dinner-The Value of Sharing Meals

It also looks like Internet rehab will have a steady supply of customers according to an article reprinted in the Seattle Times by Hillary Stout of the New York Times. In Toddlers Latch On to iPhones – and Won’t Let Go Stout reports:

But just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. It’s a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists.

Looks like social networking may not be all that social.

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8 Responses to “Two studies: Social media and social dysfunction”


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