Category Archives: Social Media Use

Don’t Blame Social Media for the Decrease In Face-to-Face Interaction.

An new article in Current Opinion in Psychology reviews the best available evidence to debunk the “social displacement hypothesis” that holds that use of mobile and social media is the cause of decreased face-to-face (FtF) interaction. Lead author Jeffrey Hall, PhD has uncovered a worrisome trend: In the United States, Great Britain and Australia, there has been a steady, uniform decline in FtF time that began well before the rise of social media. This new analysis shows the decline continued through the stay-at-home orders and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Hall, a professor of communication studies and director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas, and his co-author, Dong Liu of Renmin University in China, take on that notion in a new paper titled “Social media use, social displacement, and well-being” 

The ‘social displacement hypothesis’ is probably the most well-known, long-lasting explanation that blames the new technologies (especially texting and social media) for usurping everyone’s time away from person-to-person contact. Hall states that “the best available evidence suggests that it’s just not so.”

Hall took data on FtF time from the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual American Time Use Survey and from similar governmental studies in Australia and Great Britain between 1995 and 2021 and plotted them on a single chart. Interestingly, all three lines decline over time at a similar rate.

According to Hall,  “it’s the case that social media rates of consumption have grown across demographic groups and across the world. Yes, it’s the case that face-to-face time has declined. However, it’s not the case it takes from face-to-face time.”

If the evidence doesn’t support the social displacement theory, then where is the time for increased social media use coming from?

The paper highlights that there has been a transformation of where people are putting their attention. While it is true that TikTok and YouTube are increasingly popular outlets for watching streaming content, Hall suggests social media time is most likely borrowing from time spent watching TV, which, for decades, has been a major place where Americans spend their time. “Social-media time is also borrowing from time at work or doing household chores” Hall said.

Similar Data In 3 Countries

The paper reports a new analysis showing that FtF time has declined across three countries in a similar fashion. “The fact that the UK data track U.S. data so tightly despite using slightly different methods in different years, is surprising,” Hall said. This international trend of reduced time in face-to-face communication may reflect growing rates of loneliness.

Hall’s analysis shows that these trends of declining face-to-face communication existed well before the pandemic, and the pandemic may have exacerbated some of them. When people had some time back because they weren’t commuting to work or able to go out as much, they didn’t turn to face-to-face communication. “What’s discouraging about that,” Hall notes, “is even when people have time, they don’t seem to use it in a way that promotes their social health.” Noting the widespread evidence that FtF socialization is beneficial to well-being, “we’re not on the right path to being able to reclaim that face-to-face time,” said Hall, “at least in these three nations.”

Why is FtF time declining?

“The best available evidence suggests face-to-face is in competition with hours spent at work and commuting,” Hall says. In other words, people who work longer spend more of their leisure time alone. During the pandemic, when people got that time back from commuting, “they still spent it working virtually,” Hall said. “They didn’t spend it socializing with each other.”

And, Hall says, friendship and social media are not enemies: “Social media can be used in many friendship-promoting ways, especially now that many people use messaging programs supported by social media platforms.” As the paper claims, “social people are active both online and offline.”   

“It seems we live in a society that privileges working and media consumption over everything else,” Hall said. “The decline in face-to-face time is a matter of priority and a matter of availability. And we are neither prioritizing face to face time, nor are we available to do so.”

Source: Hall JA, Lui D. Social media use, social displacement, and well-being. Current Opinion in Psychology. Volume 46, August 2022, 101339

Patient influencers’ the new frontier in direct-to-consumer drug marketing

Pharma companies are increasingly partnering with patients to share stories and advocate for brands online. 

It began in 2015, when a celebrity influencer named Kim Kardashian was pregnant and began singing the praises of a new morning sickness drug called Diclegis to her tens of millions followers on Instagram.

In addition to a selfie and picture of the pill bottle, she wrote, “It’s been studied and there’s no increased risk to the baby, I’m so excited and happy with the results.” The Food and Drug Administration swiftly flagged the post for omitting risks, and required Kardashian to remove the post and sent the drug maker a serious warning letter.

But seven years later, so-called patient influencers are alive and well, with pharmaceutical companies increasingly partnering with real-life patients who share their personal stories and advocate for brands online.

A Trend Again?

This trend has drawn the attention of Erin Willis, an associate professor of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design at CU Boulder. In a new paper, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, she calls on the academic community to take a closer look. “This is a growing phenomenon, but there is virtually no research on it and very little regulation,” said Willis, who is interviewing dozens of patient influencers for a new study. “Is it going to help patients be better informed? Or is it going to get patients to ask their doctors for drugs they don’t really need? We just don’t know, because no one has studied it.”

New twist on ‘direct to consumer’ marketing

In one of the first academic papers to date to explore the phenomenon, Willis and co-author Marjorie Delbaere, a professor of marketing at the University of Saskatchewan, framed patient influencers as “the next frontier in direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical marketing.”

This controversial form of marketing, which is legal only in the United States and New Zealand, enables drug companies to target consumers directly, rather than through physicians. Since the first DTC ad ran in the 1980s, the ads have exploded, leading patients to ask their doctors about drugs they see on TV or in print. As Willis notes, aproximately 44% who ask their doctor about a drug, get it.

Having learned from the Kardashian incident, many ad agencies now avoid celebrity influencers altogether and instead engage “micro-influencers” like individual patients who share their personal stories and endorsements in condition-specific support groups (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) or those with a niche social media following.

“It’s a lot like what we used to see with doctors and pharmaceutical companies,” said Willis. “Only now it is patients using social media to advocate for disease awareness, and in some cases—pharmaceutical medications.”

A blurring of the lines between ad and opinion

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires that patient influencers disclose whether they are being paid (influencers use #ad or #sponcon to alert followers). And the FDA has published rules about what can and cannot be said on social posts. But such rules are open to interpretation and hard to enforce, said Willis.

The authors also have concerns that “a blurring of the lines” between ad and opinion could potentially deceive patients.

Unlike other forms of DTC advertising, social media is interactive.

“If an influencer recommends a drug, there is an entire community of voices that get to weigh in on it and support it or share their negative experiences,” said Willis.

Thus far in her interviews of patient influencers, Willis said she has found that only a small number  are paid to post (some get free trips to conferences or are paid to sit on advisory boards). Some aren’t paid at all.

“They all say they are really doing this so that other patients have information and can have a better life,” said Willis. “That is their No. 1 motivation and I think that’s awesome.”

She said she hopes that her work, funded in part by the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, and the new research agenda she has launched, will lead to a set of best practices for both patient influencers and the companies they work with.

“There is both value and risk in this growing trend and, like anything, it has the potential to become dangerous if we’re not careful,” Willis said.

Source: Willils E, Delbaere M. Patient Influencers: The Next Frontier in Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Marketing. JMIR Published on 1.3.2022 in Vol 24, No 3 (2022): March

Exploring problematic smartphone use during pandemic

Smartphones have become people’s daily companions and an integral part of our lives and interactions with information and other people. Through mobile Internet access, smartphones allow quick access and provide up-to-date news around the globe and in the life of family and friends.  In addition to the active online interaction, one can passively observe the online behavior of others by checking their updates and depending on privacy settings, we can track when our friends are online, and whether they have read our recent messages. 

Essentially “smartphones not only satisfy our need for belonging; they also can contribute to the satisfaction of another important human need—the sense of control.” Previous research has demonstrated that smartphone use has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. While smartphones can enhance daily routines and social connection, studies has also shown that smartphone use can become problematic and negatively affect relationships, work, and mental or physical health. A more complete understanding of factors that may contribute to problematic smartphone use (PSU) could help inform efforts to prevent and manage such behavior.

To provide new insights, researchers from the University of Bochum in Germany conducted an online survey of 516 smartphone users aged 18 and over in Germany in April and May of 2021. The survey included questions to evaluate self-reported smartphone use as well as sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking—three factors that the researchers hypothesized could contribute to problematic smartphone use, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Statistical analysis of the survey results found that those individuals who reported experiencing low sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking,and indeed, all were associated with greater severity of problematic smartphone use.

Moderating effect of repetitive negative thinking on the connection between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use (N = 516).

While the findings do not prove causation, the statistical analysis also suggested possible interactions between the four factors. For one, fear of missing out may be a key mechanism by which low sense of control could lead to problematic smartphone use. Meanwhile, a higher degree of repetitive negative thinking was associated with a stronger relationship between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use.

The sample was comprised of mostly female and rather young participants; the authors suggest that the study should be replicated in more age and gender balanced samples from other countries, to ensure the results are generalizable to other populations. Furthermore, the study was conducted during the pandemic when participants’ usual daily routines may have been disrupted, possibly affecting the participants’ sense of control. Nonetheless, the findings are in line with the hypothesis that loss of control—as experienced by some during the pandemic—could boost the risk of problematic smartphone use.

Source: Brailovskaia J, Stirnberg J, Rozgonjuk D, Margraf J, Elhai JD (2021) From low sense of control to problematic smartphone use severity during Covid-19 outbreak: The mediating role of fear of missing out and the moderating role of repetitive negative thinking. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0261023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261023

Social media use shown to be linked to depression in adults

Data shows that individuals over age 35 were mostly likely to be negatively affected by highly visual apps, such as TikTok and Snapchat.

A number of recent studies have focused on adolescents and young adults being negatively affected by frequent use of social media. Symptoms of diminished well-being and greater levels of anxiety and depression were commonly reported. A research question asked if these same symptoms might apply to older consumers of social media.

To investigate this question, data from multiple waves of an ongoing 50-state US survey as used. The surveys, conducted from May 2020 through May 2021, were initially focused on learning more about how adults were coping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over time, researchers increasingly became interested in whether social media use might be linked to changes in mental health.

The survey initially asked people who were not expressing depressed feelings about their social media use, with subsequent queries to see if the people who were using certain kinds of social media were more likely to be depressed. The research does not prove social media causes depression. Indeed, it is possible that people already prone to feeling sad were more likely to log on to such sites.

Compared to adults who did not use social media, “people who were using Facebook, people who were using TikTok, and people who were using Snapchat were substantially more likely to come back and tell us they felt depressed the next time they filled out the survey,” reported Roy H Perlis, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The research also found age differences in how certain platforms impacted mental health. Depressive symptoms were more commonly reported among Facebook users under age 35 than older adults. The opposite was true for users of Snapchat and TikTok more depressive symptoms were reported among people over age 35.

The reasons for such findings were unclear. It could be that because Snapchat and TikTok are more visual mediums, perhaps affecting older adults differently. Or it could suggest that a person is out of sync with his or her peers. Perlis said more research is needed to interpret the results appropriately. Ultimately, experts recommend remaining mindful of time spent on social media.

The authors concluded that  “Among survey respondents who did not report depressive symptoms initially, social media use was associated with greater likelihood of subsequent increase in depressive symptoms after adjustment for sociodemographic features and news sources. These data cannot elucidate the nature of this association, but suggest the need for further study to understand how social media use may factor into depression among adults.”

Mitch Prinstein, PhD, chief science officer for the American Psychological Association commenting on this research pointed out that “Our brains were not built for this kind of social interaction. And social media is kind of hijacking the need for social interaction with something very artificial and insufficient,” he said. “Social media is the empty calories of social interaction.”

Sources:

Perils RH, Green J, Simonsson M, et al. Association Between Social Media Use and Self-reported Symptoms of Depression in US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(11):e2136113. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.36113

NBC News

Instagram Use and Its Association With Self-Esteem and Well-Being

As the presence and use of social media grows, image-based sites have increased in popularity among adolescents and young adults. Research to date has suggested conflicting outcomes of social media use on individuals. A study by social media researchers at Boston University included a sample of 359 college-aged individuals from throughout the United States, sought to analyze the relationship between active social media use and its association with user self-esteem and well-being through data obtained through survey research from undergraduate college students. The hypothesis was that active Instagram use would be positively associated with user well-being and self-esteem.

This study demonstrated that “not only was this hypothesis supported, but our findings reveal that intensity of Instagram use serves as a mediating variable in the relationship between active Instagram use and well-being and self-esteem.” The study shows that “respondents who identified as more active Instagram users used social media more intensely, and those who used social media more intensely had higher self-esteem. Similarly, those who used social media more intensely reported higher levels of well-being.”

Specifically, respondents who identified as more active Instagram users used social media more intensely, and those who used social media more intensely had higher self-esteem. Similarly, those who used social media more intensely reported higher levels of well-being. While the correlations among these variables may be slight, we argue that they pose implications regarding how usage patterns impact user outcomes. These findings illustrate the role of intensity of Instagram usage on user outcomes and reveal a relationship among these variables, where more active Instagram use, coupled with more intense usage, ultimately corresponds to positive effects specifically elevated levels of self-esteem and well-being.

This is particularly interesting since a number of previous studies have correlated intensity of social media use with negative outcomes or consequences. Clearly, additional studies are needed to demonstrate and delineate both the assets and liabilities of social media use and misuse.

Source:

Active Instagram Use and Its Association With Self-Esteem and Well-Being, Trifiro BA and Prena K. Technology, Mind, and Behavior. Volume 2, Issue 3. DOI: 10.1037/tmb0000043.