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Social Media Activity, Number of Friends, and Relationship Quality: The Effects on Young People’s Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing

Social Media Activity, Number of Friends, and Relationship Quality: The Effects on Young People’s Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing
Social Media Activity, Number of Friends, and Relationship Quality: The Effects on Young People’s Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing
Positive relationships are essential in meeting the fundamental need to belong. In adolescence, peer relationships become increasingly important for belonging as the risk of experiencing loneliness increases. However, the rising popularity of social media has added to the complexity of adolescents’ peer experiences, as it presents a number of interpersonal challenges and opportunities. In this thesis, I (1) introduce the thesis research and present a rationale for the chosen topic area, (2) explore the relationship between friendship quantity and quality and young people’s sense of belonging, and (3) consider how social media can be used to enhance wellbeing and belonging during adolescence.

The first chapter is an introduction to my thesis research. In this chapter, I
summarise my thesis journey; I explain how my personal experiences inspired my chosen research area, what questions I wanted to answer, how I chose to answer them, and what I learned from the process. In the second chapter, I present the findings of a systematic literature review investigating the evidence for relationships between friendship quantity and quality and adolescents’ sense of belonging over time. The results of the 13 reviewed studies suggest that having more friends indirectly reduces loneliness by giving teenagers more opportunities to develop high quality friendships. However, more rigorous longitudinal research needs to be conducted to make reliable conclusions about these complex associations. In the third chapter, I present the findings of my empirical research, where I investigated how social media can be used to promote adolescents’ sense of belonging and wellbeing. In this research, 49 11- 18-year-olds took part in a randomised controlled study, where they were asked to either (1) interact on social media, (2) lurk passively without interacting on social media, or (3) interact face-to-face. The results show that changes in belonging and wellbeing did not differ significantly between the groups. However, the findings do suggest that using social media to maintain existing relationships positively predicts later belonging. Conversely, using social media to pass time predicts lower belonging and wellbeing. Overall, the study provides some preliminary evidence to suggest that using social media to interact with friends and family is more beneficial for adolescents than passive use. However, repeating the research after the coronavirus pandemic and with a larger sample size will be important to make more reliable conclusions and recommendations for practice.
University of Southampton
Elder, Lindsay
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Elder, Lindsay
4a373777-c873-4812-b3e0-7e27a436ee98
Cooke, Tim
13401e9f-c615-45e8-a5db-c5780c7450b5
Brignell, Catherine
ec44ecae-8687-4bbb-bc81-8c2c8f27febd

Elder, Lindsay (2021) Social Media Activity, Number of Friends, and Relationship Quality: The Effects on Young People’s Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 181pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Positive relationships are essential in meeting the fundamental need to belong. In adolescence, peer relationships become increasingly important for belonging as the risk of experiencing loneliness increases. However, the rising popularity of social media has added to the complexity of adolescents’ peer experiences, as it presents a number of interpersonal challenges and opportunities. In this thesis, I (1) introduce the thesis research and present a rationale for the chosen topic area, (2) explore the relationship between friendship quantity and quality and young people’s sense of belonging, and (3) consider how social media can be used to enhance wellbeing and belonging during adolescence.

The first chapter is an introduction to my thesis research. In this chapter, I
summarise my thesis journey; I explain how my personal experiences inspired my chosen research area, what questions I wanted to answer, how I chose to answer them, and what I learned from the process. In the second chapter, I present the findings of a systematic literature review investigating the evidence for relationships between friendship quantity and quality and adolescents’ sense of belonging over time. The results of the 13 reviewed studies suggest that having more friends indirectly reduces loneliness by giving teenagers more opportunities to develop high quality friendships. However, more rigorous longitudinal research needs to be conducted to make reliable conclusions about these complex associations. In the third chapter, I present the findings of my empirical research, where I investigated how social media can be used to promote adolescents’ sense of belonging and wellbeing. In this research, 49 11- 18-year-olds took part in a randomised controlled study, where they were asked to either (1) interact on social media, (2) lurk passively without interacting on social media, or (3) interact face-to-face. The results show that changes in belonging and wellbeing did not differ significantly between the groups. However, the findings do suggest that using social media to maintain existing relationships positively predicts later belonging. Conversely, using social media to pass time predicts lower belonging and wellbeing. Overall, the study provides some preliminary evidence to suggest that using social media to interact with friends and family is more beneficial for adolescents than passive use. However, repeating the research after the coronavirus pandemic and with a larger sample size will be important to make more reliable conclusions and recommendations for practice.

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More information

Published date: 2021

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 454328
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/454328
PURE UUID: b0e015ef-1f4d-4d37-a032-650c8d8c787e
ORCID for Lindsay Elder: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8394-0118
ORCID for Catherine Brignell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7768-6272

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Feb 2022 17:43
Last modified: 26 Oct 2023 04:32

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Contributors

Author: Lindsay Elder ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Tim Cooke
Thesis advisor: Catherine Brignell ORCID iD

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