The talk was part of #Explorathon16, a Europe-wide network of events where researchers meet the public and share their work during European Researchers’ Night on 30 September.
Our public was a class of 15 pupils in S6 grade, mostly girls, all of them heavy social media users. We wanted to know about their experiences with social media and be able to compare how much it aligns with what we know from research.
We asked them the question, how do you feel when you use social media? And here is what we got.
We received 69 different responses. Of those, we classed 32 (46%) as positive experiences, described with words such as “entertained”, “powerful”, “comfortable”, “happy”, “safe”, “accepted”, “inspired” and others. Negative experiences were described with 21 comments (30% of the total), with words such as “frustration”, “paranoid”, “scared”, “self-conscious”, “judged”, “exposed”, “jealous” and others. Neutral experiences represented the remaining 24% with the most popular words “connected” and “busy” or “occupied”.
In our follow-up discussion, pupils were more inclined to see the positive aspects of using social media and were somewhat reluctant to think about any possible negatives, although research points to plenty of those. And in fact some of the words used by pupils to describe their negative experiences do raise concern.
We tried to raise their social media literacy and challenged them to think about #HealthySocialMedia and their own techniques to survive and thrive online. I hope they had fun and learned something along the way!