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Social Media and Well-Being: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis Exploring Interpretations of Social Media, Perception of Self, and Well-Being Amongst University Students

Gardiner-McGregor, David (2019) Social Media and Well-Being: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis Exploring Interpretations of Social Media, Perception of Self, and Well-Being Amongst University Students. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This study aimed to explore the association between personal interpretations of social media, self-perception, and well-being. Previous literature indicated increased social media use resulting in lower self-esteem (see Vogel, Rose, Roberts and Eckles, 2014; Murphy, 2013) while also highlighting the benefits that connection-promoting (see Clark, Algoe and Green, 2017) and the power of ‘likes’ (see Burrow and Rainone, 2017) have on self-esteem and overall well-being. Quantitative methods dominate this research area without providing richly detailed subjective accounts from participants. As such, this study employed semi-structured interviews in order to gain an understanding of user experiences and how these impact upon self-perception and well-being. The participants in this study were six undergraduate students, aged 18-25, with 2 males and 4 females. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analyses, two superordinate themes emerged from the transcripts. The first centred around self-perception and self-presentation, whereas the second focussed on the uses of social media. There was an overall consensus that social media is useful in the modern world for staying connected with peers and the wider world, but negatively affected well-being and self-esteem when engaging in activities such as social comparison as it causes users to evaluate the perceived deficiencies in their own lives against idealised others. This study presents an opportunity for further research to explore why people continue to use social media given its detrimental effects on well-being.

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