When asked what teenagers are doing during the coronavirus pandemic, many individuals immediately call to mind a stereotypical image: a teenager, hunched over in their chair or bed, staring elusively and poking at a bright, flashy screen. Their eyes squint with delight and hands move only to swipe through social media posts or scroll through messages. And, of course, as many often conclude, teenagers must be lonely since they are 'living' on social media.
As recently published on the THINK website, Dr Velislava Hillman, director and senior researcher at Data, Media and Society Research Centre in Malta shares her insights into mainstream media and how it portrays research.
Mainstream media headlines have seemingly simplified complex data to conclude that teenagers’ social media usage is directly linked to pain, gloom, and utter loneliness. With bold headlines declaring “‘Social Media Creates ‘Instant Loneliness’ for teenagers’ and ‘Loneliness: An Epidemic In The Making?,’ it isn't too difficult to paint social media platforms as drivers of loneliness and isolation in teenage populations.
However, as with any generalised headline or title, we must pause to understand the intricate relationships between data and decipher what far-fetched media headlines are claiming. As informed consumers of mass media, we must ask deeper questions backed by factual information as loneliness is a layered effect with many root causes.