Harnessing the Potential of Social Media to Develop the Next Generation of Digital Health Treatments in Youth Mental Health
Purpose of review
This narrative review presents a summary of current research regarding the impact of social networking sites (SNS) on the health and well-being of young people. The review consolidates research on the following topics: risks and benefits associated with SNS use by young people with anxiety and depression, and psychosis respectively; an outline of eOrygen’s Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST) platform; and a discussion of the ways in which research in the digital health field inform the design and delivery of the MOST intervention.
Recent findings in the digital health field suggest that it is necessary to take a nuanced approach when examining the impact of SNS on the health and well-being of young people. The effects of social media can be influenced by a range of factors, which may include the type of interaction, the ethos underpinning the SNS, and the personal attributes of the user.
The digital health field is working to harness the popularity of SNS among young people and incorporate it into the design of custom therapeutic digital platforms. One such example is eOrygen’s Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST). MOST is underpinned by a clear and innovative positive psychology framework and is designed to bring about long-term social and functional recovery in youth mental health. MOST aims to leverage young people’s interest in social media, while explicitly addressing and working to minimise the negative pitfalls of commercial SNS, thus maximising the potential for therapeutic benefit, while working to minimise negative impacts to the user. The overarching purpose of MOST is to revolutionise young people’s access to, and engagement with, therapeutic digital interventions and to improve mental health outcomes for young people overall.
KeywordsSocial media Young people Youth mental health Psychosis Anxiety Social networking sites
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
Lee Valentine, Carla McEnery, Simon D’Alfonso, Jess Phillips, Eleanor Bailey, and Mario Alvarez-Jimenez declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and animal rights and informed consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
References Recommended Reading
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
- 1.•• Erfani SS, Abedin B. Impacts of the use of social network sites on users' psychological well-being: a systematic review. J Assoc Inf Sci Technol. 2018;69(7):900–12.A 2018 systematic literature review of studies published between 2003 and 2016 on the relationship between SNS use and psychological well being.Google Scholar
- 2.Bailey E, Rice S, Robinson J, Nedeljkovic M, Alvarez-Jimenez M. Theoretical and empirical foundations of a novel online social networking intervention for youth suicide prevention: A conceptual review. Journal of affective disorders. 2018 Oct 1;238:499–505.Google Scholar
- 3.Ellison, N., & boyd, D. (2013). Sociality through social network sites. In W. Dutton (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of internet studies (pp. 157). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 4.Alhabash S, Ma M. A tale of four platforms: motivations and uses of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat among college students? Soc Media Soc. 2017;3(1):2056305117691544.Google Scholar
- 5.Miniwatts Marketing Group. Internet usage statistics: the internet big picture 2019 [cited 5/05/2019]. Available from: https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm
- 7.Sensis. Yellow Social Media Report 2018. Part one - consumers 2018 [cited 2019 5/05/2019]. Available from: https://www.yellow.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Yellow-Social-Media-Report-2018-Consumer.pdf.
- 8.• Baker DA, Algorta GP. The relationship between online social networking and depression: a systematic review of quantitative studies. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2016;19(11):638–48..A 2016 systematic review of 30 empirical studies examining the relationship between SNS use and symptoms of depression.Google Scholar
- 9.Fogg BJ. Persuasive computers: perspectives and research directions. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems; 1998 (pp. 225-232). ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.Google Scholar
- 10.Atler A. IRRESISTIBLE: the rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. Perspect Sci Christian Faith. 2017;69(4):253–6.Google Scholar
- 11.•• Orben A, Dienlin T, Przybylski AK. Social media’s enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2019;116(21):10226–8. Findings demonstrated that overall social media effects on young people are nuanced, bidirectional, and difficult to pinpoint even with a very large sample.Google Scholar
- 12.•• Yang CC. Instagram use, loneliness, and social comparison orientation: interact and browse on social media, but don't compare. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2016;19(12):703–8. Influential paper (findings demonstrated the possibility for healthy SNS use and the importance of including personality traits and specific SNS use patterns to disentangle the role of SNS use in psychological well-being).Google Scholar
- 18.Collin, P., Richardson, I., & Third, A. (2011). The benefits of social networking services. Cooperative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/The-Benefits-of-Social-NetworkingServices.pdf
- 19.Easton K, Diggle J, Ruethi-Davis M, Holmes M, Byron-Parker D, Nuttall J, et al. Qualitative exploration of the potential for adverse events when using an online peer support network for mental health: cross-sectional survey. JMIR Mental Health. 2017;4(4):e49.Google Scholar
- 21.Burns JM, Birrell E, Bismark M, Pirkis J, Davenport TA, Hickie IB, et al. The role of technology in Australian youth mental health reform. Aust Health Rev. 2016;40(5):584–90.Google Scholar
- 26.John A, Glendenning AC, Marchant A, Montgomery P, Stewart A, Wood S, et al. Self-harm, suicidal behaviours, and cyberbullying in children and young people: systematic review. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(4):e129.Google Scholar
- 27.Royal Society for Public Health, 2017 #StatusOfMind [cited 2019 10/5/2019]. Available from: https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/62be270a-a55f-4719-ad668c2ec7a74c2a.pdf
- 28.Spraggins A. Problematic use of online social networking sites for college students: prevalence, predictors, and association with well-being. Gainesville: University of Florida; 2009.Google Scholar
- 34.•• Berry N, Emsley R, Lobban F, Bucci S. Social media and its relationship with mood, self-esteem and paranoia in psychosis. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2018;138(6):558–70. Identified specific online behaviours that are strongly associated with negative and positive impacts on well-being.Google Scholar
- 36.• Lal S, Nguyen V, Theriault J. Seeking mental health information and support online: Experiences and perspectives of young people receiving treatment for first-episode psychosis. Early Interv Psychiatry. 2018;12(3):324–30 A qualitative study exploring young people’s experience of seeking out first-episode psychosis information online. One of very few qualitative studies of this nature.Google Scholar
- 37.Alvarez-Jimenez M, Bendall S, Lederman R, Wadley G, Chinnery G, Vargas S, et al. On the HORYZON: moderated online social therapy for long-term recovery in first episode psychosis. Schizophr Res. 2013;143(1):143–9.Google Scholar
- 38.Fortuna KL, Brooks JM, Umucu E, Walker R, Chow PI. Peer support: A human factor to enhance engagement in digital health behavior change interventions. Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science. 2019:1–0.Google Scholar
- 41.Rice S, Robinson J, Bendall S, Hetrick S, Cox G, Bailey E, et al. Online and social media suicide prevention interventions for young people: a focus on implementation and moderation. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016;25(2):80.Google Scholar
- 43.Alvarez-Jimenez M, Gleeson JF, Bendall S, Penn DL, Yung AR, Ryan RM, et al. Enhancing social functioning in young people at ultra high risk (UHR) for psychosis: a pilot study of a novel strengths and mindfulness-based online social therapy. Schizophr Res. 2018;202:369–77.Google Scholar
- 44.•• Alvarez-Jimenez M, Bendall S, Koval P, Rice S, Cagliarini D, Valentine L, et al. HORYZONS trial: protocol for a randomised controlled trial of a moderated online social therapy to maintain treatment effects from first-episode psychosis services. BMJ Open. 2019;9(2):e024104. Horyzons study protocol paper outlining the Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST) platform.Google Scholar
- 45.Rice S, Gleeson J, Davey C, Hetrick S, Parker A, Lederman R, et al. Moderated online social therapy for depression relapse prevention in young people: pilot study of a ‘next generation’ online intervention. Early Interv Psychiatry. 2018;12(4):613–25.Google Scholar
- 48.McEnery C, Lim MH, Knowles A, Rice S, Gleeson J, Howell S, Russon P, Miles C, D'Alfonso S, Alvarez-Jimenez M. Development of a Moderated Online Intervention to Treat Social Anxiety in First-Episode Psychosis. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2019;10:581.Google Scholar