How and Why Young People Use Social Media in Relation to Self Harm and to What Effect?
Social media use and self-harm prevalence are both highest among young people. Many explanatory models of self-harm have been proposed which are helpful in understanding the functions self-harm serve. Social media is a relatively new phenomenon requiring further research to increase understanding of the psychological processes associated with its use. The connection between self-harm and social media has received increased media attention in recent years and is of clinical and social importance. The current study intended to increase the understanding of the connection between the two phenomena. Seven females in mid-adolescence accessing a DBT service were interviewed about their use of social media in relation to self-harm. Their interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Data analysis led to the identification of four super-ordinate themes, extension of everyday social media use, unexpected pitfalls; expected benefits and misunderstandings: “unless you’re part of it, you wouldn’t understand it”. The findings suggest that social media is used in a number of ways in relation to self-harm and its use is frequently an extension of the way young people use social media more generally. This is influenced by many factors. Its use can lead to pitfalls and benefits and navigating between the two is difficult and can be misunderstood by others. The consideration of the findings in relation to the wider research context has increased knowledge about the use of social media in relation to self-harm within this population. Clinical implications and recommendations for future research are suggested.
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