Social Media and Mental Health

Social Media and Mental Health


SUSAN POSER: All right. Good afternoon, and welcome to the campus
conversation. This is our second campus conversation of
the academic year. The goal of the campus conversation series
is to have faculty, students and staff engage with each other of the big issues of our time
going on now and affecting all of us. As a community dedicated to social justice
and diversity, we come together to try to understand current events and talk about issues. Over the past three years, we have looked
at issues, such as immigration, civil rights, national and local elections, and the hash
tag me too movement. Upcoming programs for the remainder of this
academic year include food and security, free speech on campus, climate change, and Mayor
Lightfoot’s first year in office. Today the topic is social media and mental
health. We know that there are growing mental health
needs in this country and at our colleges and universities. Perhaps one of the reasons is the influence
of social media, which although often a tool that helps us to connect and maintain friendships
and learn about important activities locally, nationally and internationally, it can also
be very depressing. It seems like everyone’s having a better time
than you are, and their families and significant others are better looking than any of yours
are. And you also know, of course, that a lot of
bullying occurs on social media. I just read, I think in today’s paper, maybe
yesterday’s paper, about a suicide of a student who was bullied on line. And so there’s a lot here to talk about. Today we have our own professor Zizi Papacharissi
to address the panel, and she’s here with two colleagues who are also experts in this
field. So I will now introduce the panel and let
Dr. Papacharissi take charge of the panel and the discussion. They will speak’a0uc0u8209 u8209 the panelists
will speak for a total of around 45 minutes, and then we will have 30 minutes left for
Q and A. On your chairs, hopefully you found a piece of paper and a pencil, and that’s
for you to write your questions. And as we get closer to the Q and A time,
Kelcie will come around and collect those and continue to keep her eye on them and the
panelists will have them to look at in response. So Dr. Zizi Papacharissi is professor and head of the communication department and a
professor of political science at UIC and a university scholar at the University of
Illinois system. Her work focuses on the social and political
consequences of on line media. She’s published nine books, over 70 journal
articles and book chapters and serves on the editorial board of the 15 journals. I’m amazed you had time to join us today (laughter). Zizi is the founder and current editor of
the open access journal social media and society. She’s collaborated with Apple, Facebook, Microsoft
and Oculus and has participated in closed conversations consultations with the Obama
2012 campaign. She sits on the foundations of young health,
national research council and the institute of medicine in the U.S. and has been invited
to lecture about her work in social media at several universities and research institutes
in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Her work has been translated into Greek, German,
Korean, Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Turkish and Persian. She is currently working on her tenth book
called (inaudible) democracyAfter Democracy with the Yale University Press. Dr. Alexis Lauricella is an assistant professor
and the director of the technology inis at the early childhood center at the Erikson
center here in Chicago where she studies digital media in early childhood. Her research has been frequently published
in academic journals and books and she’s a regular presenter at conferences in the United
States and abroad. She interned at the sesame street workshop,
which solidified her passion for studying child development and media and led her to
pursue a Ph.D. in developmental psychology with a focus on studying educational media. She’s also the founder of play learn parent.com,
a website that helps translate child development research for parents. She developed the site as a way to develop
technology or inform parents by providing them small bits of child development information
that can help guide them through some of the challenges of parenthood. I’m very sorry I was too early for that. Dr. Adrienne Massanari is an associate professor
in the department of communication at UIC. Her research interests include new media,
gaming, digital cultures design, platform politics, gender and ethics. Massanari’s work has appeared in new media
and society, first Monday, journal of media communication and the journal of information
technology and politics. Prior to joining UIC, she served as the director for the school of communication center for
digital ethics and policy at Loyola universityUniversity in Chicago. She also has more than ten years experience
as a user, researcher, information architect, usability specialist, and consultant in both
corporate and educational settings. This is a highly expert panel, and I will
give you Dr. Papacharissi. (Applause.) ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Thank you, provost. Thanks, everyone, for joining us. Provost Poser, thank you for creating this
wonderful opportunity. This is certainly a timely topic, an important
topic and we’re all very happy to be here. Thank you for attending this session. We look forward to the (inaudible)c. onversation. We each have some brief remarks and then we’d
love to engage in conversation with you and take your questions and do our best to answer
them. I’m going to begin with some general
remarks providing an overview of my research and general expertise. I’m going to let Kelcie help me with pulling
up my power point and start by telling you that I’ve been studying the internet and related
platforms since the early ’90s when we had less than 5 percent of the population in the
U.S. with access or using these platforms in the media. And less than one percent doing so worldwide. What we typically tend to find, and what I
tend to find in my research over time thank you. Hi… So what we tend to find,
time and time again, is that people use the internet and the many platforms that it supports
to get more of what they don’t have enough of in their everyday lives. So friendshipsfor instance, people who are
shy or introverted, they have more avenues for social connection. People who are much more social, they have
many more ways with which they balance their social networks in a way that satisfies them. The internet is not some exotic, magical, mystical place that you dive into being social
and you emerge out of being anti social. Not at all. We tend to use the internet for connection,
for expression, but really also to do just very mundane, boring, everyday things, things
we do in our daily routines, like looking up a recipe to finding a date. Now, there is nothing about the internet or the platforms it supports that is inherently
damaging to your mental stability or to your social well-being. But education, parenting, and peer groups
are important. The internet is an architecture that supports
a variety of spaces. Some of those spaces are going to be friendly
to you. Some of those spaces are going to be hostile,
and almost all of those spaces are going to be what you make them. Let me go ahead and dispel some myths about social media that hover around these three
questions. Do these media render people more or less
social? No. They do not. We find time and time again that usually after
a brief fairly period of enamorment ed with new technology people fall into their usual
patterns or find a way to integrate a technology that medium into their daily routines in a
meaningful manner, in a healthy manner. Most people. We do encounter addiction, but it’s slow and
it’s specific to people who have a predisposition for addictive behaviors. Point No. 2. I’ve always hated the term social media, and
we use it, we use it so much, and especially to describe platforms like Facebook, like
Twitter. The reason why I hate this term is because
it creates and it reproduces the impression that we have some media that are social and
Facebook and Twitter somehow ended up in that category. And then we have a separate category of media
that are anti social. And then perhaps there’s other media that
are asocial, they have no social properties at all. And this is a bizarre characterization, right? Because there’s media like the telephone,
just very social media, but it doesn’t require that characterization of being a social media
compared to Facebook and Twitter. So all media are social. All media foster communication and therefore
by definition they’re social. What’s interesting is how each medium cultivates,
reproduces, reinforces its own variety, texture of sociality, and sometimes I think with a
lot of these platforms that are becoming more and more commercialized, its own brand of
sociality, its own brand of being social. So the last question is are these bases more social, less social? Human beings are social beings. Any space that we have itinhabit is going
to be a social space. We’re social by making. It’s our survival strategy. So every space that we enter, we are going
to make social and we’re going to enter it and inhabit it breaking our habits and bringing our habits and also our problems with us. So don’t be surprised when you encounter harassment,
bullying, hate speech, stalking on line. The internet did not create those things. We brought them with us, and we brought them
to a space that has the tendency through its architecture to make these things more visible,
to allow them to spread more quickly, and Adrienne will talk about how that happens. Alexis will talk a little bit more about the
circumstances under which we’re likely to see addictive behaviors. What sort of groups are more vulnerable to
these sorts of consequences, effects, let’s say. So what to do about all of this. As the provost mentioned, every day you’re
saturated with information about other people, what they do, who they are, what they wear,
where they’re working, who they’re dating. And the natural tendency is to compare. We’ve always done that. The difference is that in the past we compared
to our immediate social circle of 5, 10, 20 people. Nowadays we’re potentially comparing and self
comparing to millions of people every day. That can be maddening, and the only way out
of this cycle that can be damaging for social well-being, for mental stability, is
to realize that what you’re look at is ideal. It’s aspirational. People go on line to celebrate. We celebrate publicly, yet we mourn very privately. Remember that. People don’t likego online to celebrate, to
project idealized versions of who they are. And the platforms that we’re using create
this illusion that we’re looking on to other people’s lives, into other people’s worlds,
but we’re not. We’re looking at performance through a key
hole. We’re not looking at the whole picture. We’re not looking at the whole story. Also play, be imaginative, be creative. Do your thing. Don’t imitate. And finally resist. Put the phone down. You don’t have to be these technologies invite you to be social all the time. You don’t have to be social all the time. And if you want to be social, diversify your
portfolio. Pursue many different avenues of sociality. But really find some time for silence. Give yourself the opportunity to be bored. That’s where inspiration lies. Feel comfortable in that silence. One of my favorite social psychologists, Sherry Turkel, was often criticized for saying this,
but I like what she says. She says that if we cannot find a way to be
alone, we will always be lonely, right? Because we can be lonely in a roomful of people
and we can be lonely when we’re sitting by ourselves with our phones in our hands. So feel comfortable in that silence. Find a way to be alone and feel comfortable
in that. It’s not easy. And we all struggle with that. So let me leave you with this. I like to say that technologies network us,
but it is our stories that connect us, identify us, and also potentially divide us. So tell the stories that express who you are. Tell them in ways that allow you to connect
to each other and reach out to each other. And also at the same time don’t squander your
attention. Your attention is your power. Be selective. Don’t fall prey to click bait, to snackSNAP,
to Thursday wrapsthirst traps. Don’t be too (inaudiblecheap dates). Play hard to get. Be hard to get. Thank you. (Applause.) >>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: Okay. Can you guys hear me? Thank you, guys for having me. I’m really excited to be here. This is something that I love to do, is to
talk about some of the research that I do and with people can actually use that information
and do something about it. So I’m going to jump right in, talking about
social media and mental health. I want to start with headlines like this,
right? Have smart phones destroyed a generation? A lot of public conversation that we see and
hear around technology, and especially social media, focuses on destruction and how one
particular tool, like Zizi was getting at, that social media, that Facebook, that Twitter,
that is causing all these problems. We see this in a lot of headlines, a lot of
rhetoric. It’s really focusing on again these very specific
components and forgetting about all the other aspects of human development and human’s lives. And this is where my work really comes in. So instead of focusing on one technology or
one way of using the internet or social media, I use what is often renders[inaudible] model,
you haven’t heard about that too much, but this idea that people, individuals, are surrounded
by all these really important aspects of their lives. Things like school, family, culture, policies,
right? All these things that influence how we behave
and how we feel and how we learn. And so thinking about social media as one instance, one thing that could destroy a generation,
from my perspective, it’s a little bit too short sighted, too small. We’re forgetting about all of the other protective
factors, all of the other things that are going on when you focus on something just
like just social media. All of the parts of our lives influence how
we feel, how we respond, how we engage, and we need to keep that in mind, that we are
not little tiny organisms. We are big intellectual and impressive people
who can make a lot of decisions based on a lot of information. So no one person or one thing is really influenced by just one other aspect. When I do my work, most of my work is on children through adolescence, and some young adult
work as well. But I’m really interested in how people develop
and how they change and how they learn in the context of a media technology. So I frame my work around these three separate
kind of ideas, these three aspects that are important when you’re hearing considering
about the effective social media or the effect of any technology on an individual. Thinking about the individual who’s using
that particular technology, thinking about the content, what that individual’s actually
doing or using or engaging with. And then the context for how you’re using
that technology. And so I’m going to talk a little bit about
how these three variables, these three factors, really influence these effects of social media. The individual user matters. If you’re five, if you’re seven, if you’re
15, if you’re my mother, who is now 73, the way she uses technology impacts how it affects
her, right? Her experiences, she projects her own experiences
into the use of social media. She also experiences it differently based
on her life and experience. So we need to think about who is using it,
what type of characteristics, not just age but own experiences, right? We all have been in the situation where we’ve
been on social media looking at the same image or reading the same text and processing it
very differently than our neighbor or our friend or not recognizing how that might hurt
somebody else because they’re coming at it from a very different perspective. So we need to think about the user, ourselves
as the user but also who might be seeing what you’re posting and how they might be responding
differently than the way you would. One particular aspects of the user that we should think about that Zizi kind of alluded
to is this side idea of vulnerability, right? And that is not necessarily based on any kind
of diagnosis but even just vulnerability of that particular day. You all know that when you wake up and you’re
in a great mood, things don’t hit you and don’t bother you as much than if you wake
up in a bad crummy mood or you just failed a test, seeing somebody’s perfect life on
social media is going to feel even worse, right? So there’s been a lot of research looking
at these aspects of vulnerability and how people with different vulnerabilities respond
and feel differently when they’re engaging with social media. This is some of comments about social media
done last year, and they were looking at kids who identified as a variety of different social/emotional
ways. But what I think is interesting here is that
kids who were vulnerable teens were more likely to say that they had a variety of negative
responses to social media, such as feeling bad about themselves when nobody commented
on their own posts. Also they said that they were also more likely
to say that social media was’a0uc0u8209 has a positive rather than a negative
effect on them. So we’ve got both of these things happening
at the same time and we need to recognize that. And this is just not a direct linear relationship,
but a lot of feelings are going into the use of social media and experiences all at the
same time. So it’s hard to just determine what is healthy
use, what’s not healthy use, when to put it away, when to keep it out. And we need to recognize that. Again just a more looking at data, this is the dark purple bars are
looking at our youth with low social/emotional well-being, whereas the lighter purple
is the high social/emotional well-being, and you see here some differences. So in the top corner says this is the percent
of social media users who say that they sometimes feel left out or excluded when they’re using
social media. Youth with low social/emotional well-being are more likely to say that compared to those with higher social/emotional
well-being. They’re more likely to say they feel bad about
themselves if no one comments on their posts they said they deleted social media posts
because they got so few likes. So this has some data to the point that these
aspects of this individual user that really affects the use of it. Another similar data point and chart, again comments from social media. These are again youth who say that social
media makes them feel more or less lonely, and we see that 39 percent say that it makes
them feel more lonely. 13 percent says less lonely. 13 percent says it makes them feel more lonely. Things like depressed and better or worse
about themselves. And again this is very generalized. We all have felt these different feelings. It’s really hard to look at our own behavior
and say overall it does this and makes me feel better or worse whereas in a specific
instance you might be able to pull something up and say oh, this makes me feel better or
not better so you have to be careful with these generalizations measurements in general. Context does matter so this is something to think about with your own social media use. How are you engaging in social media. Are you sitting on the train with your headphones
and head down on your feeds. Are you sitting in a bedroom. I have a 14-year-old and she
wants to go in the dark basement and look at her social media, it’s not that she’s sitting
on Instagram. She’s on Instagram, chatting, face timing,
doing a lot of social behaviors that are all social media in a variety of different ways
in a context that’s very isolating. So we have four kids and she’s the oldest
so the rule is she can use her phone, has to be in the living room where all the other
kids are going to run into her. She’s going to have to fend for herself and
focus on other things as she’s engaging with that social media. And you also do this too, when you’re engaging
or looking at something with a friend, it feels different. The content also matters, right? So it’s not just thinking about social media
as a whole but what you’re seeing, who’s presenting it and how it makes you feel. These different images all taken from different
social media accounts will have different impacts on the users and on those, depending
on those own individual user’s feelings about the content being presented. This might be particularly upsetting for some
people and not at all for other people, right? We need to recognize what triggers us to feel
good or bad and how we respond to that. Similarly this is actually a group of all of my good girlfriends from graduate school
except for one, right? So we posted it to social media and you can
imagine that made her feel particularly bad that she was excluded and not part of that
get together. I’m going to bring in a little bit of theory for a second, this idea of cultivation theory. This is kind of important. Cultivation theory says quickly that what
you see, especially represented on media and for an experiences, you start to feel like
that’s what the real world is. And that’s a particularly important thing
to think about. If all you’re seeing is people’s keyhole best
images, best presentations being put forward, you kind of forget that the rest of their
world and the rest of everybody’s world has all these other components that are never
getting represented in those different contexts. I’m just going to skip to that last one. I want to talk about one recent study I did
that was not on social media but I think puts this in into context a little bit. We recently did a show on 13 reasons why which
a lot of people know about. It had a lot of criticisms. And what we were interested in was what did
the viewers of this show feel after watching the show. How did they change their behavior. What were they doing as a function of watching
the show and not watching the show. And one of the interesting findings we had,
a lot of findings, was that viewers were actually more likely to talk about the tough topics
that were presented in the show with a lot of other people in their real lives, with
parents, with teachers, with peers, they were more comfortable and more willing to talk
about things like mental health, depression, suicide. And 31 percent said that
they talked about this show on social media. So again this shows a couple of different
things. One, social media is not separate. It’s not that’s why I’m on social media but
it’s a part of all of our lives and we communicate on social media and we communicate in our
own world, but we need to think about, especially with young users, when they’re choosing to
communicate on what platforms and when they’re skipping other ways of being social and engaging
in different experiences. So just in summary, recognizing there’s a whole lot that goes into this social media
mental health category, and that we need to be very aware of all of the different pieces
around the individual, and how they’re interacting or not interacting and really trying to figure
out and understand what effect it has on youth and mental health. Thank you. (Applause.) >>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Okay. Actually, okay. Hi, thanks so much for coming today to talk
about this really important topic. Probably some of the things I’m going to say
will sound like a first refresher course in what we just heard because I think we’re all
saying some of the same things and I hope that some of this is resonating with you as
well. So my research broadly considers sort of the
relationships between communities, on line spaces, so Facebook, Twitter, redad it, and
the ways in which platform design can facilitate conversations or impede them in different
ways. And in particular I’m interested in the sort
of question of like how do these platforms pass, erhaps suppress , marginalized voices
and how does extremist content get spread. When we’re thinking about platforms generally
and social media platforms’a0u8209 u8209 I’m going to use platforms as a term so it’s important for us to think about how they’re designed. And this is something most of us don’t maybe
have much familiarity with, but it’s I think kind of once I start talking about it a little
bit you’ll get where I’m going with this. We can think about them as having certain
affordances so the idea of affordances is how something in the environment tells us
how it works. So for example if I see a door and it has
a metal plate on it, I know I’m supposed to push that door outward or if I see a comment
box on line that says please add something here, I’m supposed to add something to this
conversation or I’m supposed to click a button to say that I liked it or pinned it whatever. When we think about affordances in social
media, I think there’s a few that are particularly salient and important, and some of these are
ones that we’ve already talked about. So first is this notion of amplification. So social media is essentially there to amplify
our message. So that means our words and photos and memes
often move far beyond the audience that we anticipated. So if we tweet a joke on Twitter, it might
be retweeted or screen capped and posted on tumbler and redd it and might go viral and
we have no control over that. And this may be great or not so great depending
on the situation, in part because it encourages the sort of loss of context. And that’s one of the things, you know, we don’t know necessarily when we retweet something all the other things
that that person has ever posted. And so we can actually end up amplifying material
that’s harmful or misleading very easily. And I conversely, also we can think about
the fact that this then might lead us to amplify or to be overwhelmed by material that is, you know, that we’re hitting us all the time, every day, as we get another notification
on our phone that some sort of major news story has just broken. It’s because everything seems to demand our
attention and so we may not be as thoughtful as we want to be about what we’re sharing
and consuminge. The second affordance that’s important for us to consider is visibility. Social media are designed to promote visibility
and communication. This means that things like black lives matters
and me too, activists can mobilize in really important ways, and in collapses the distance
between individuals and communities. But that also means that spaces like Twitter
can easily facilitate harassment campaigns against targeted others and those people who
are targeted are often the most marginalized among us. It also means our other two speakers had talked
about today, that we do this constant comparison of ourselves and others. We forget that everyone’s curating themselves
all the time on line, off line so we look to these spaces for validation on about how
we should be living, also knowing that that’s not really them but it feels like it is them. This connects to a third affordance, feedback. So likes, shares, retweets, up loadsvotes
and hints pins are all sort of metrics designed in the social media to tell us how well we’re
doing with our audience, how much is resonating with them. But it’s easy for us to view this as sort
of a larger statement about our inherent worth when Instagram posts we share don’t get as
many likes as another one, we maybe have a tendency to think this is about our friends
no longer liking us or our audience has moved to another platform or something like that
without realizing that there’s a design element, so perhaps the algorithm that’s being used
isn’t actually showing that post for a given reason. And we can also think about the fact that experiences on line continually reinforce
a view point which may be awesome. So say we have a health concern, there’s probably
a redd it community for that where we can share and see social support for that concern. But that feedback and that feedback loop can
also work in reverse. So we can find support for harmful behaviors
or extremist ideas or become radicalized because of that. So positive feedbacks and those kinds of communities can create and maintain an echo chamber along
with sort of algorithms that also recommend or kind of content and perhaps move people
towards more extremist beliefs. I do want to mention that technology itself is not neutral so it reflects a particular
set of assumptions, about what overuse appropriate use is and the values of those people creating
it. It’s been designed to keep us liking and sharing
content and because this makes money. It’s not really designed for our collective
or personal well-being. That’s not the for the primary
design purpose. This might be changing sort of as social media. Companies are now being somewhat regulated
perhaps in the U.S. And we can see this in their text attempts
to sort of make incremental changes, like not showing lights, for example, unless you’re
the author of a post or keeping them hidden for a certain amount of time to encourage
people not to overamplify material. But we know it’s really telling when many
folks in Silicon Valley themselves very much limit the amount of screen time that their
children have. So that would perhaps say something about
what use looks like or what they think this might be doing to us. And while it may be easy to say, well, you should delete your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, there’s often a very social and effective cost to doing
so. So until a few years ago, I assigned a media
fast to my students, and I’m not really sure that such an assignment is actually even possible
anymore, so this was about new media, they would fast from new media. And we’re ever more connected and asking students
to simply ignore critical part of their lives as if it’s somehow separate from their real
lives is not really feasible. There would be too much of a cost to them. I do think we have as a responsibility as
educators to help students think critically about their habitual social media use, reflecting
on how it makes them feel. To that end, some of my colleagues have designed
a more nuanced version of the social media fast which actually has students kind of taping or sort of videotaping digitally digitally recording their faces as
they’re doing different tasks on line, and then playing it back and reflecting on what
they see in their faces. And sometimes that led to some fairly significant
changes in how they were engaging with social media. They had no idea that whenever they went on
Facebook, they got really sad looking and felt bad. Hadn’t really internalized that until they
saw these images of themselves engaging with this. I do want to say lastly that one of the most important things we need to consider with
social media is, and I think this isn’t new information, is
that this reflects larger cultural tendencies. So when we talk about issues of cyber bullying
harassment or eradication radicalization it’s easy to say technology has created the problem. Well, definitely amplifies certain tendencies,
we do a huge disservice to everyone if we continue to look to technology as being simply
the problem, as if technology is going to solve the problem for us also. We have larger sort of social issues that
need to be wrestled with, which are much more difficult and complex and complicated. But I think that along with thinking about
how these affordances work is something really productive way for us to move forward and
to understand what we are doing with technology and social media and what it is doing with
us as well. Thank you. (Applause.) >>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Thank you, both. Those were some exciting remarks that added
a lot of specificity to the conversation and concern and questions we all have. I have a couple questions for our panelists
and we’ll take questions from all of you to get the conversation started. So would you mind telling us about a learning moment, a teaching experience, teaching moment
in your own personal experience with using social media that and
how you were able to find balance and well -being in that experience? And I will answer that question myself, too,
if there is time. >>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: Sure. So I think there’s been multiple learning
experiences, especially as a parent with a teen, but in my own use as well, just recognizing
and reflecting on how I’m feeling when I see certain images, it’shas been really powerful. And as much as it’s hard making a change and
removing some of the people that are not necessarily’a0uc0u8209 and not and through– at
no fault of their own. It’s often my own issues. I have a good friend from high school who
has three beautiful little kids and something about every time she posts with her little
tiny toddlers and her house being perfectly clean, it just makes me feel awful. And she doesn’t do anything wrong. But I just realized I couldn’t do it. It was not bringing me enough joy to see how
cute her babies were, even when just because it was making me so crazy
about my own issues about our house not being clean. And so I had to remove her. And it’s one of those things that was hard,
and I felt kind of guilty about doing it. But it was helpful for me to just to not have to be sparked by that every single time I saw it.>>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah, I would say so one of the things that I noticed
is if I’m watching a show and I’m on my phone, I didn’t really want to be watching the show
that much or be on my phone, either one of those. And I think being’a0u8209 u8209 one of
the things that I’ve learned is sort of like how to, what is it that…what am I trying to get at? So like thinking about like the sort of uses
and gratifications of what I’m trying to get at at that particular moment with my technologies,
whatever that is, so am I just trying to zone out flipping through tik tokck tock videos
over and over again and at some point I have to I’ve learned that I need
to put a sort of time limit because I could just very easily dissent into tick tocktik
tok for hours and watch cat videos but it’s interesting that I have to be much
more disciplined than I thought I would have to be. It’s like we study this stuff and I still
struggle with all the things that our students I think everyone does, which is not
picking up the phone and looking at maybe for an answer to a question or not doing and it is almost like I’ve also sometimes, if I’m thinking about
it, meditate and that you know, that mindfulness, there’s a reason that
that exists as a practice and perhaps part of this is about becoming this more, I think
for me personally, attuned to why am I using it and what am I really trying to get at. Am I trying to procrastinate? Am I trying to feel bad because sometimes
I use social media to feel bad about me because that’s my own personal mental state. Or am I really interested in connection. And those are different kinds of reasons to
use it.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: I can definitely sympathize with that and I’m going to share with all
of you that that person I was describing and I was referring to when I said, you know,
find time to be silent, feel comfortable in that silence, that was me because I, you know, for people like me, I have trouble sitting still. I like to do a lot of different things at
the same time. So for people like me, this can be a very
empowering tool. It allows me to do a lot of things at the
same time. It can also be very dangerous. So for me it’s been very helpful to just kind
of keep an eye on the things that I’m doing and also finding some time to just put the
phone down and look out the window or to stare at the ceiling and do nothing. It can be very fulfilling staring at the ceiling. Any advice that you have for students? >>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Try not to use
your phone in class. I know it’s super tempting. I would say, you know, it’s a habit. This is habitual stuff and I think a lot of
times, I think of our phones as like a new what cigarette smoking was at one once upon
a time. Like it gives you a reason for being there
if you’re standing outside a bar with your friends or standing outside a restaurant waiting
for people, it’s very easy to scroll up and down because it’s a way to kind of show the
world that you belong there in a way that used to be if you smoked cigarettes, you’d
stand outside a bar and do that. I think in some ways that that’s I see students in my classes, and it’s I have all kinds of technology in these
classes, and oftentimes they’re really relevant for whatever we’re doing. But I can just see it. It’s like you watch it happen where as much
as they’re on we’re all sort of on task, we all sort of start veering off
into some other world. And that’s not necessarily bad. That’s kind of this like sort of world in
which we live right now, but it does also mean it’s more difficult for us to be present
with each other and the sort of special space that I think we create in the classroom setting. And I think also the other piece of this is
there’s lots of great tools. If you want to look at the technology to help
you fix technology, that’s maybe sometimes a good idea, sometimes not. But there are these great tools to limit your
use and maybe even just trying it out and seeing if it’s different, if you move like if you move snap chat off of your desktop your phone screen? You know, if you move it into
some hidden folder, does that change your thing. Like sort of doing your own social experiments
on yourself to see if it helps. That would be my suggestion. >>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: Yeah, I think what
you said initially, thinking about one thing to be doing at a time and giving all of your
attention to what that one thing is. If you want to take off onedo snap chat, do
that and for that period of time you decided and then move on and make sure you make those
agreements with yourself. Again, I work with kids so I do a lot on like
games and activities in ways to help them not want to continue a habit or a behavior. And so reward yourself. Like find ways that if you do stop and do
other things, you have some sort of you get some sort of a reward for that
behavior. Or especially I taught a class once when I
was at northwestern with undergrads and we went through all the ways that they try to
police themselves and their friends so they had a whole bunch of games. Or if they went out to dinner, put their phone
in the middle of a table and whoever reached for the phone first had to pay for dinner. Or whatever it was. So it was a big consequence. So thinking about ways to kind of help yourself
remember that maybe you don’t need to be on it all the time or that you can take a break,
I think is a really good recommendation and making it part of your social group because
it’s hard when you’re standing outside the bar and everybody else is on your phone and
you’re the one looking at the ceiling. And so think about ways to kind of encourage
each other to engage with each other and off your devices as well.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: I mean it’s the advice that we have to offer does not deviate to
the advice that we offer generally about regarding living a balanced and fulfilling life. A friend of mine who does research on social
media likes to start his lectures by saying you’re not special. And I think he really revels in saying that
but I think it’s really important to emphasize that because you’re not special, my snow flakes. And by that I mean it’s interesting. The thing about social media, and specific
platforms that we use under the huge moniker of social media, is that they do create this
illusion that you are special. You know, when you’re picking your, they invite
you to talk about how you’re feeling or to offer your opinion. So there is that lure, that you are special
and tell us what is special about you. So we do tend to project the aspirational
on these platforms. We’re invited to sort of present the best
version of ourselves. And I think the trick here is to do that but
also to understand that we’re special and at the same time we’re very similar. So yes, we use these technologies to celebrate
how special and unique we are, but we also use them to understand that we share a lot
of the similar problems, a lot of same problems with the people that we’re speaking to, and
to use them and to connect with people who have allaround these problems. Describes me that I can use this last
one to transition into the questions from the audience. So it’s building community, coalitions, friendships
positive for mental health, or does it promote getting further lost in the world of the internet
and distancing ourselves from the, quote, real world, unquote, as these connections
become a sort of reality. >>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: I think it’s a
net positive. You know? I mean, we talk a lot, there’s like certain
term, called selectivism, which is I retweeted something, as a petition, I positioned, I
did this. But when we look at it for activists, like
social media is a huge really really like formational thing that is allowed activists
around the world to do some really pretty remarkable things. So I think just saying that it’s just sort
of this nonsensical thing that has what it works is activists are using
it to organize on the ground sort of actions, right? To go and to protest, to go and to march,
to go and to raise awareness. And I mean, you can just look at sort of the
cultural sort of importance of something like me too or black lives matters. It’s sort of saying that real social change
can happen, and certainly it facilitates a larger group of people coming together. That being said, it also facilitates
another kind of group of people to come together in harassment campaigns. So those same affordances are kind of on both
sides. They’re dualities. They allow for both. And I do think that while at some we might have the impulse to think that social media distances us because we
have the screen that seems cold, I would say for most of us, I mean, throughout your day,
you probably have smiled, laughed, maybe gotten sad, looking at something. So there is this like affective I have thing
as Zizi mentioned, that happens when we’re engaging with these faces that doesn’t just
have to do with this nonmaterial like other world that exists out here. It is around andgrounded in our bodies and
is experienced by them. And so I mean, I think, yeah, that would be
my perspective. >>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: And since we’re
on the topic, what do you think about echo chambers and the way they may support delusional
thinking?>>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah. Do you want to I mean,
I feel like I don’t think they’re not supposed to exist, right? You know, the filter bubble.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: The filter bubble. I think it’s an interesting question. Some of my work focuses on the social consequences
of social media, media in general. Some of it focuses on the political and often
I end up’m looking at both. So something that I like to say is that echo
chambers, yes, they exist. But they’re not something new. I think they’ve always existed. They exemplify behaviors that we adopt as
we try to find friends. We usually associate with others by trying
to look very for the similar. We’re looking for people who we may have similarities
with, who we may have common interests with. So that’s the motivation behind echo chambers,
is not evil. They’re not created to support and sustain
delusional thinking. But they have always existed, and they have
always been supported by media. So what we’re seeing in part is human tendency
to affiliate and to find people who are like minded and to make friends with them. But also out of lack of knowledge in terms
of how to then circulate and express our opinions on line. How to have conversations on line and understanding
that not every space is suited for every kind of conversation. So just like you might have a private conversation
at home in a quiet space, a flirtatious conversation in a crowded bar with a lot of other people,
or no conversation at all in a movie theater because you’re watching a film, same thing
with the internet. There’s some conversations that are better
had on line, some conversations that are better had off line. There’s some opinions that you may express,
you may want to express, you feel you want to express, but you don’t have to have an
opinion about everything. And I often feel that there’s this pressure
to have an opinion. And of course, we live in a democracy. We have the right to our opinion. But what I really ask is’a0uc0u8209 u8209
what I often asked is have you earned the right to that opinion? Do we know enough about a certain situation
to have the right to’a0u8209 u8209 to have earned the right to that opinion. So, yes, I think we encounter delusional
thinking and echo chambers in social media much more often because they do have the tendency
to amplify, to make more visual, to. proliferate, And my solution to that, my answer to that is education, literacy… I’m Greek. We say in Greek just dipping your tongue in your brain before you talk. Is there anything you’d like to add? >>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: I think it kind
of goes back to what I was talking about before, thinking about things more holistically, so
what’s going on with the individuals who are perpetuating conversations in these echo chambers. What else is going on in their lives. Are they not being exposed to other stories,
other thoughts, other opinions. And I think that’s something to think about,
either in your own thinking or when you’re in these situations when you’re reading through
comments and people are constantly agreeing or getting more and more angry about something. Put that hat on. What’s going on? Where is this person coming from in this conversation? Are they just sitting at home reading all
these chats and responding, responding, responding. Are they at a university where they are hearing
different perspectives and thinkin hearing about things differently? Just being aware that it’s not the platform
but it’s the people that are engaging, help make sure that people experience this so that
they don’t get kind of caught up in just one train.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Okay. So bottom line, do we think social media is
better or worse for mental health. I think it’s like chocolate. So I like it. If I eat it every day and if it’s all I eat,
it’s going to be really bad for me. But if I eat it in a balanced way, it’s going
to be very healthy. So same thing with social media. We present specific avenues of being social. If used in a particular way, it can enhance
balance, it can enhance welluc0u8209 being. Your thoughts?>>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah. I think the jury’s still out. Right? This is like asking I mean,
it’s a great question, but it is like asking us before we have the retrospective however
many years later to think about this. I think one of the challenges is that we have it’s not like we haven’t had other media technologies that have come out and
people have divisive reactions to it. That is like part and parcel in how we engage
with new technology. There is sort of this techno utopian optimism
and then there’s this distopian everything is going to be terrible. We’re going to have the apocalypse happen
because of this technology. I do think now these are really important
conversations to be having. The issue is are they happening enough. Are these conversations and
are we on equal footing to understand technologically what the affordances design technologies of
social media platforms are doing? And I would say, no, most of us aren’t. I’m not necessarily, like pretty much contained
in this perhaps perhaps we don’t have the programmatic knowledge to understand,
but also we haven’t really had these’a0u8209 had them long enough for us to become
sort of accustomed to them in the same way that we might the television or newspaper. And they’re also technically complex. Like I still don’t know how my computer works. Like I know theoretically how it works, but
I also I marvel when it turns on and it actually turns on, the minute that
I get sad it doesn’t turn on, I’m freaking out. But it’s like those I think
part of this is are we needing this are we thinking about these, the sort
of ethical and value based questions at the forefront of these technological developments? Probably not. And maybe that’s something we might want to
start thinking more about, especially as we move beyond sort of just social media but
thinking about AI and a lot of other sorts of technologies that we already know are sort
of in development, to think about what are kinds of how do you want
to create really sort of just and humane spaces, and what does that look like for us? And that means having a really hard conversation
about what does that look like now because we don’t necessarily have it together in this
space here.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Alexis, I have a question for you specifically. Can you elaborate on those differences in
high versus low on that social/emotional well-being.>>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: Sure. If you are interested in more of that data
there’s a huge report by common sense media that looks directly at teens’
use of social media and did a survey and asked things like a whole host of levels around
social and emotional development, what how teens self-reported how they
felt in these different variables. They also then talked to teens and what they
told these groups so they got more of a holistic perspective about what teens were talking
about regarding social media and one of the big findings again around that was that teens
and youth see this differently than older generations. So they this is their world,
and they don’t… I’m going to put all this into an age group that we
didn’t grow up with this. So we are constantly and other researchers
are constantly comparing how we grew up with how this next generation grew up and that’s
not how adolescents and teens and young adults are doing it. They’re not sitting down thinking should I
snap chat or should I call. This is the world they grew up in. So sometimes when we put kind of our old people
lens on to this, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Regarding the high and low socialu8209 emotional
development, they had a scale that assessed different questions of how adolescents generally
reported how lonely they felt, how confident they felt with social interactions different
to people who felt lower on the scale and higher on the scale. And they found that those two different groups
of people responded differently to how they felt when they were using social media. We did something similar with the 13 reasons
why study where we looked at people who are higher and lower on loneliness, on happiness,
on self-esteem, on depression, to see how those individual differences, how if you
fell on a higher level of those variables, how watching there are reasons why it might
have impacted you differently.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Thank you. There’s actually a question that picks up
on a couple things that both of you mentioned, including the old person lenspen lines and
also experience with past media. Would you with our advice
work for current students who grew up with social media. They don’t have a memory of a time where it
didn’t exist. I would say yes. What do you think on this. I would say yes because of our
a lot of the advice that I give comes from conversations with young people. And the more we talk about young people, the
more we realize that they’re very sensitive to the issues, these issues. They’re very aware of some of the dangers
that are out there, and also the opportunities as well. And they’re very media savvy. Now, regarding a memory of a time where these
things didn’t exist, yes, they didn’t, but’a0u8209 u8209 and I’m guessing this is not coming
from a current student. Let’s all think back at a time when we were
dealing when we were at that age and we were looking and struggling with
things that didn’t previously exist. We didn’t have a memory of them. And the sorts of crazy and unexpected things
that we wanted to do that were part of growing up and experimenting with life and making
some mistakes and learning from them.>>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah, I think that sort of perhaps the difference now is that and it is I mean, it should be of some concern
is sort of like the longevity of those moments, right, when we have this sort of I went through some serious awkwardness, teenage awkwardness. There are pictures I don’t want anybody seeing
and they’re safely in my parents’ house, and they won’t probably never see the light of
day, right? And so we can think, though, that this is, you know, there is something different and that’s why sort of sometimes the advice
is so harsh partial or not sort of keeping with this, is like the idea of this moment
being lived in a sort of public way that is somewhat different than for many of us who
grew… you know, didn’t have or grow up with all of this available to us. That part is probably pretty concerning or
thinking about these ramifications of the longevity of terrible decisions you made as
a teenager. I think that all of us probably have that. And sort of the question of like maybe it
means that everybody’s like at some point it will just a cascade, everybody
will have done that and therefore it will have zero consequence to anyone. But we also know right now we’re sort of in
this transitional period where people are having to be confronted with the sort of possible
like prior selves that they had, expressions of that, that are uncomfortable that even
now they would kind of look at and say oh, I would do things very differently. And they’re doing it in a way that can be
very easily again visible and amplified, passed around to decontextualized and that, I think,
is I mean, that’s certainly’a0u8209 that’s different, and that’s where you know, but there’s also a lot of adults throwing up their hands as if they
have no ability to say anything about this new space, and yet half of them are the ones
who designed itresigned to it to begin with. So I think there’s sort of that too, is also
thinking about again these are issues that teenagers, particularly young people
have faced time and time again. And the space is different than it was before.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: I’m often pleasantly surprised by young people’s ability to self
correct and I was thinking about the point you made a lot of these photographs that go
on line and stay on line forever. And lately a growing trend in social media
is for younger adults to favor the more ephemeral moral ways, so to use options that allow them
to tell stories of who they are without having to commit to displaying visual traits of their
identity and then planting that on line.>>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah, there’s been a lot of attempts especially in new countries,
think about the right to be forgotten, the idea that these digital traits, again today
we should be owning, we should have access to our digital data and thinking about creative
ways that you might be able to rewrite yourself. We do it a lot of times in our lives. This is just a different version of it.>>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: One thing just from the thinking about some
of these new social media where things do disappear, and I think it’s hard for a lot
of us to do research on it because it’s disappearing, but talking to youth and talking about how
adolescents about how they’re using snap chat, it’s very different than the conversations
that we’re talking about housing or apartment social media platforms. They get it. They get that this is going to disappear. And on some level there is an opportunity
actually the picture of you saw of the two little girls is my daughter making a funny
face, and that was something that was going to disappear. I took a screen shot of a story. But this idea that kids are willing to not
come out perfectly in those media and then it disappears stories, is really interesting
when you think about what people are exposed to, right? So this conversation about everybody putting
their best food forward is very accurate when we’re thinking about Facebook and Instagram
and even Twitter. But snap chat it’s different. There’s a lot more silliness, a lot more playing
going on, a lot more experimenting going on, so we’re seeing even the behaviors changing
based on the platform and how it’s being used by these youth, which is important to consider
also.>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Thank you. These questions are amazing. Thank you so much for all. We’re going to do two more questions and then
I think we have to wrap things up because of time. There was a request to talk more about
the affordances of social media and if there are any affordances that promote positive
mental health. So one way to think about this is that, I
mean, affordances are I mean, they certainly tend to promote or
prohibit specific behaviors. But they’re also kind of like attributes or
characteristics, so they can be used to promote behaviors that are healthy. They can also be sort of gamed with temperamental
behaviors that are unhealthy. Something I always appreciated regarding mental
health is that often and we’ve also spent I see some
of my colleagues in the audience. We spent a lot of times studying safe spaces
on line, how they are enabled, how they are fostered and how anonymity often creates a
safe haven for sharing for the same thing, the same difficult situation and supporting
each other, support communities. >>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: Yeah, I mean,
I think that would be the dream of a site like red it, which doesn’t always accomplish
and it seriously does not accomplish in a lot of ways, but if you
I mean, red it is a sort of community based website. Anyone can create a community of interest. And the amazing thing about it is that if
you are struggling with with anything, like if you want advice about
what’s going on in a relationship, if you need to talk to somebody about selfu8209
harm, those kinds of things, I mean, that social support stuff I think is what is kind
of amazing. And for many of us who study with internet
really think it’s powerful about these spaces. And to be to allow to not just facilitate that but also to do things like affordances of having pseudoanonymity,
where you’re not tied to a real name on account on a space like Reddit really does afford
people the ability to disclose about themselves incredibly painful things sometimes in a space
that feels less like a barrier to entry than it might with family and friends for lots or family and friends in their other spaces and these people become sort of you know, especially if you’re dealing with some sort of health issue, any kind of
health issue, being able to go to a place where everyone else is also struggling with
that same thing and understands that is incredibly powerful and profound. But I think that these are pockets that exist. I mean, there are people who are doing that
in spaces like Facebook groups. There’s lots of secret Facebook secretive lots of secret Facebooker, I belong to some that are
for social support, for this very small community of people. I mean, maybe part of this is also when you
start thinking about where is social media? Like is it breaking down conversations? Like maybe we’re trying on too large a scale
to have some of these conversations. Maybe that’s part of the issue, is that we
think that this is going to be able to facilitate millions of people in a room together. Well, that’s absurd. We wouldn’t be able to do that anyway. And so thinking about what scale back to what
Zizi was saying, sort of where is it appropriate to have certain conversations and have it
not in certain situations, that would be kind of’a0u8209 u8209 you know, maybe this is
really one of the afford ands that’s a really tiny communities that allow people to share
something that’s really important to them, not that’s painful. I think that is a positive.>>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: And I also think the same features of social media that make people
feel kind of overly confident, either criticizing or saying something negative also helps some
people feel confident enough to bring up their own concern. So you see a lot with adolescents and with
young adults this idea of they are much more comfortable texting or even responding to
an Instagram account with things like I’m feeling really upset, I’m feeling really down. The word suicide is coming up unfortunately
a lot in young conversations and it’s happening through these text based conversations,
partially because it’s really hard to look somebody in the face and say, hey, I’m feeling
really depressed, especially if you are feeling really depressed. So there are these affordances through these
types of digital communication that do’a0u8209 and especially on individual levels,
let certain people feel more comfortable, asking for help or talking about their mental
health or their own emotions, whether or not it’s the best place for them to be doing it
isn’t the best conversation but there is that opportunity there that didn’t exist 30 years
ago and if you were feeling really down, you had to write a letter? What else were you going to do unless you
talked to somebody directly or on the phone.
>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: Yeah, I would just say, look, the medium itself lends itself to companionship,
to expression. People look for companionship on line before
they look for everything else. I think things become problematic when there
are when there’s efforts to commercialize those aspects of companionship,
to put a brand on it, to misuse words and then sort of lump all of your acquaintances
in one place, label them as friends, and then sell them to you, sell them to other people. I think those are ways to exploit the platform
commercially are usually misguided and I think this connects to the last question that we
have for today, which is sort of a two part question. I also wanted to connect to a question I wanted
to ask. So what can universities do about this? How do we get our students to think critically
about social media? And then also how do we identify problems
before they get out of hand? And let me first say one way to identify problems
and is to start working, something that our colleagues have been doing. So working with a company
with the companies that design these platforms and start involving ourselves in advisory
goals so that we can have a part in what these platforms look like and what things we need
to encourage. But how do we get our students to look at
it more critically and what part can faculty can universities play? >>ADRIENNE MASSANARI: I think we can
say they should be con majors so we can talk about this in our classes. I, yeah, I think having
these conversations and thinking about how to not just this conversation
but where appropriate in the fields that we’re each in and kind of bringing the conversation
to about demystifying this thing. Because I think adults have thrown up their
hands and said I don’t get it. I’m just going to sort of abdicate responsibility
for understanding this. And I think unfortunately that does a disservice
both to students, young people, by suggesting that somehow all of the things that they dealt
with, so things like literacy, we’ve been dealing with issues around media literacy
for years so thinking about information, and issues around mental health, all that stuff,
we have all of this knowledge and it may not be a hundred percent applicable to social
media context, but a lot of it is and I think that part of the problem is
there’s an reticence to have conversations around it. Every time I bring to my classes, students
are both far more reflective about their own views, but also less knowledgeable about the
nuts and bolts about what these platforms do and how they do it and I think that’s part
of the piece that us old people can offer some context and guidance and like historicize
it, create some context around it. Yeah, so that would be my suggestion.
>>ALEXIX LAURICELLA: I think another a quick suggestion is to also recognize
again in orientations and when students are starting in schools to start
that this is part of their lives that they’re bringing with them in the same way that history
when we had these students come, we’ve had to help them how to know how to do their laundry
and do all other specific tasks that we have them adjust to college and social media in
college and that’s part of what they’re dealing with every day, so kind of getting an ahead
of it and starting those conversations when students walk in the door, how is this environment
different than your high school environment and how does social media that you’re bringing
from high school, how do you need to think about it differently. How do you need to think about how you’re
using it and how it’s impacting you when your mom is not taking it out of your hand when
you’re going to bed or whatever else is happening at your home.
>>ZIZI PAPACHARISSI: So to sum up, we have the knowledge. Let’s use academic spaces to I am impart this
knowledge. We do this already to a certain extent. But Susan, let me make a pitch for incorporating
a class on the art of conversation or the art of living in the 21st century society
as part of curricula.
>>SUSAN POSER: It’s actually very interesting you raised that. I met with a group of students yesterday and
threw the general education question at them, what do you think we should have. Is there any required class you think we should
have. And their response was adulting 101. How do you manage a budget, how do you pay
your taxes, how do you advocate for yourself with your landlord or your doctor or in your
job and so on. And this seems to be sort of part and parcel
of exactly that. So anyway, let’s thank Zizi, and the panel
for this conversation. (Applause.) Thank you.

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