Social media may amplify negative experience for disadvantaged

New York: Far from offering an escape, the negative social interactions that the disadvantaged youth experience in the neighbourhood may get reproduced and even amplified in the social media, new research suggests.

“Teens and young adults who are at the margins of society may have experiences in dealing with social media that others don’t. Unfortunately, what we found was that not only do they have to deal with negative social interactions in their neighborhoods, those interactions also seep into their online lives, sometimes in a larger, more problematic, way,” said lead researcher Robin Stevens from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

The findings appeared online in the journal New Media & Society.

The team conducted interviews with thirty females and thirty males, ranging in age from 18-24 years old, about their social worlds and neighbourhoods, both online and offline.

The study’s findings reveal a dynamic and somewhat concerning interplay between a physical neighbourhood and a digital neighbourhood, where negative interactions are reproduced and amplified online.

The participants told interviewers of the drama that takes place on social media, which is a byproduct of living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood.

Researchers not only discovered that the physical negativity that these young people experience in their neighbourhoods spills over to their lives on social media, but that the opposite is also true.

“Participants told us that drama that starts out on social media can also manifest itself in serious, physical altercations on the streets,” Stevens said.

“Social media is an amplified reflection of the real and digital neighbourhoods in which they live,” Stevens noted.

A unique advantage of social media is that it can be used to bring people together and allow users to experience things they may not get a chance to.

Adversely, the study found that social media can make tensions between people even worse, or at least seem even worse.