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Social Media Surveillance on Snapchat Linked to Mental Health Concerns Among Youth

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A new study has revealed a profound connection between social surveillance on Snapchat and mental health outcomes among young people. This research, conducted by Robyn Vanherle and colleagues, delves into the psychological implications of being “left on read” on social media platforms, particularly Snapchat.

The study, published in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, centres around the concept of social surveillance – the practice of monitoring others’ activities online. Focusing on a demographic of 16- to 25-year-olds, the researchers investigated how Snapchat’s unique surveillance features, like Snap Map, impact feelings of loneliness and depressive symptoms among users. A key aspect explored is the role of “fear of missing out” (FOMO) as a mediating factor in these relationships.

The findings from the study are pivotal, especially in an era where social media usage is ubiquitous among young people. With Snapchat being a popular platform among this age group, understanding its impact on mental health is crucial for developing effective digital wellness strategies. The study’s insights into the nexus between the need for popularity, surveillance behaviours, and mental health outcomes offer a nuanced perspective on the psychological effects of social media.

Among the key findings are:

  • A higher need for popularity among young individuals is associated with increased engagement in surveillance behaviours on Snapchat.
  • These surveillance behaviours, in turn, are linked to mental health indicators, particularly through the mediating effect of FOMO.
  • Specific uses of Snapchat, particularly those related to surveillance, have more significant associations with mental health concerns compared to general platform usage.

The study’s revelations are particularly relevant in the context of growing concerns about digital mental health. As social media becomes an increasingly integral part of young people’s lives, understanding its impact on their mental wellbeing is essential. This research underscores the need for a nuanced approach to digital mental health, recognising the specific features and uses of social media platforms that might influence psychological outcomes.

The study’s findings have significant implications for young individuals and those involved in shaping digital wellness strategies. It highlights the importance of awareness about how specific social media behaviours, like surveillance on Snapchat, can impact mental health. For educators, parents, and mental health professionals, this research provides valuable insights into the digital habits of young people and the need for tailored approaches to promote healthier digital practices.

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