Recent technological advancement has led to a rapid increase in our use
of social networking; it has recently been revealed that users spend an average
of 50 minutes using both Facebook and Instagram daily (Stewart, 2016). Social
networking is becoming increasingly popular, and the primary research focus has
always been Facebook. Research has been able to establish a vast range of other
benefits, including greater self-esteem (Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten,
2006), better physical and mental health (Berkman, Glass, Brissette, &
Seeman, 2000), and even a longer life expectancy (Iyer, Jetten, Tsivrikos,
Postmes, & Haslam, 2009). Verduyn et al. (2017) established how passively
using social networks provokes envy and thus negatively impacts on wellbeing,
however if one is to actively use a social network the effect is reversed. Positive
wellbeing is achieved by promoting feelings of social connectedness and thus
demonstrates the benefits of social networking.

Despite these potential benefits, prior research into heavy social
networking use has been found to correlate with depression and addiction
(Tandoric, Edson & Duffy, 2015). Case study evidence suggests social
network addiction can be classified as a mental health illness, and it is
satisfaction which is claimed to lead to the slippery slope of addiction. Dat
(2015) found Facebook is a significant antecedent of habit via a user-reported
feeling of satisfaction, but the initial satisfaction soon develops into
dependency. SNSs Addiction Disorder is a recognised mental health condition, and
is characterised by a neglect of personal life, using SNSs for escapism, mental
preoccupation, tolerance, mood modifying experiences and even concealing the
addictive behaviour.

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There is a big gap in the literature regarding social network analysis
of Snapchat and psychological implications. Contemporary research suggests
younger people are using Facebook less and adopting newer media such as
Snapchat; a unique app in which messages will self-destruct once the user has
opened them, giving its users a higher level of privacy. Snapchat comprises of
three main features: snapchatting another user directly, posting a story and
viewing stories. Snapchat stories are essentially a video or a picture
equivalent to a Facebook status that other users can view.  Despite Facebook’s 1.5 billion number of
users, teens showed a preference for Snapchat and claimed it was of greater
importance to them than Facebook (Piper Jaffray, 2008).

The question is: why is Snapchat more favourable amongst teens? What
impact does Snapchat have on young people’s emotional and subjective wellbeing?
Application of wellbeing research and attachment theory have been previously
applied to networks such as Facebook but not Snapchat, thus the research
proposal will seek to test the interchangeability and replicability of previously
established findings and investigate how Snapchat is meeting so many young
people’s needs, as well as the positive and/or negative implications that
result.

It is important Snapchat’s recent domination of usage is explored. This
shift in social media use has not been yet acknowledged much or properly
addressed by social scientists, although one study did find Snapchat is more
prone to elicit jealousy than Facebook (Utz, Muscanell & Khalid, 2015). It
is claimed Snapchat is generally used for more flirty behaviour and finding new
love interests, whilst Facebook is favoured when seeking to maintain existing
social ties. Although this study does claim Facebook is still the most popular
choice for social maintenance, this research needs updating. It is only in the past
year Snapchat has overtaken Facebook in terms of popularity amongst young
people, so it would be interesting to assess if Snapchat also has the
functionality or capability to replace Facebook.

 

 

Psychological Wellbeing

Neto (2015) states research into wellbeing is crucial in improving
quality of life; low wellbeing has been strongly associated to social, family
and romantic loneliness, even with socio-demographic factors accounted for. It
is important to define and operationalise wellbeing, so studies can be
replicable and psychological interventions can be accurately targeted.

Despite a historical lack of agreement on the meaning of wellbeing and
how the concept should be defined and measured, there is now a consensus that quality
of life is multi-dimensional. Ryff’s set of core constructs/dimensions are:
self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery,
purpose in life and personal growth (Hen, Hill & Jorgensen, 2016). These dimensions
will be used in the research proposal, as they are objective and quantifiable measurements
that can be correlated with attachment type, e.g. it is hypothesised high
scorers in this scale will be securely attached. The other predictions of this
proposal will be denoted later on.

Attachment and SNSs Behaviour

Not all individuals will utilise their social networks in the same way;
there is a lack of agreement over what the important predictors are when
conducting SNSs research. This research proposal suggests attachment type is an
important predicting factor in social media behavioural differences. The
concept of tie strength is an important variable that should be considered when
conducting research into attachment style and social networking.

Research has used Bowlby’s theoretical framework of attachment (1962) to
investigate SNSs behaviour and online communication, which has demonstrated the
importance of secure attachment in both trusting and building close
relationships. When applying such theory to social ties and networking, the
initiation, maintenance and dissolution of ties have been the focus of
research. Inevitably, initiation and maintenance are generally strived for by
anxiously attached, whereas dissolution will be a more frequent tendency of
someone avoidantly-attached. Muscanell & Guadagno (2012) found participants
differ in their likelihood to rely on their social network for support during
times of distress (Muscanell & Guadagno, 2012). Anxiously-attached
individuals are generally more dependent; particularly when feeling low, so it
would be logical to presume this behaviour is applicable and transferrable to social
media. Avoidantly-attached individuals will hence be less likely to rely on
social network, arguably due to their high levels of self-sufficiency.

Kandell (1998) found that anxiously-attached individuals may prefer
online communication as the computer screen barrier allows for not only more
thinking time in planning what to say but removes the fear of any awkward
pauses that could happen in a real-life conversation. The craving for
communication but anxiety restraints makes Snapchat the perfect tool to solve
both problems and meet the individual’s needs, thus producing positive feelings
of wellbeing and satisfaction. Linking back to earlier and addiction
maintenance, this explains how attachment style and social networking addiction
interrelate and can be initiated.

Hence, it is hypothesised that anxiously-attached are more likely to
check their Snapchat throughout the day and spend a longer amount of time per
click.

Certain other predictions will be made about this study:

·        
It
is proposed attachment type will be a predictor of Snapchat usage;
avoidantly-attached individuals will use it less, whilst the anxiously-attached
will spend more time on the application.

·        
It
is predicted individual’s scoring highly in Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing
Scale are likely to be securely attached, with lower usage.

·        
It
is predicted anxiously-attached individuals will score low on the wellbeing scale

Method

Design

The study will use a 3×2 factorial, between-groups design, with
attachment type as the independent variable. This will be operationalised into
three categories: secure, avoidant and anxious. Their attachment type will be
determined via the Revised Adult Attachment Scale (Collins, 1996), which
literature reports has scored highly in internal consistency (Fernandez &
Dufey, 2015). The two dependent variables will be social media usage and psychological
wellbeing. Participants will consent to downloading a social activity tracking
application, which will keep an electronic record on their phone of every time
they clicked on Snapchat throughout the week, and how long they spent on the
application. Participants will also rate their mood on Ryff’s Psychological
Wellbeing Scale at the end of every day. Participants will undergo this
experiment for a week.

Participants

100 UEA psychology undergraduates will be recruited using a volunteer
sample in exchange for course credits. All participants will be between the ages
of 18-21. Only participants with a smartphone and a Snapchat account will be
able to take part.

Apparatus and Materials

The Revised Adult Attachment Scale consists of 18 attachment-style
questions on a 5-point likert scale (see Appendix A) and will replace the original
term of ‘romantic relationships’ to ‘close relationships’. This is necessary to
assess how the user will use Snapchat’s functions for all uses of online
communication and behaviour. The questions are divided into three sub-scales
and comprised of six items per sub-scale. The three sub-scales are: close,
depend and anxiety. To assess wellbeing participants will use Ryff’s
Psychological Wellbeing Scale, which incorporates six dimensions of wellbeing:
autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, self-acceptance, positive
relations with others and purpose in life. Participants will be using their own
smartphone and snapchat account, as well as an electronic notepad on their
phone to record times clicked in a day, and the period of time spent on the
application per click.

Procedure

Participants will be recruited via SONA and informed they will be taking
part in an experiment regarding Snapchat and the effects of product promotion
and marketing on consumer behaviour. The Revised Adult Attachment Scale adopts
a 5-point likert scale which will be filled out by participants, and then they
will consent to and download the activity monitoring app which will run in the
background of their phones at all times. A passcode will be required to disable
the application, which the participants will not know. This is to control for
any reasons or social desirability effects for why they may try to disable the
tracking application and go on Snapchat inconspicuously. If they decide they
want to opt out they can get in contact, request the pin code and have their
data destroyed. At the end of each day, participants will complete Ryff’s
Psychological Wellbeing Scale; this is to try to establish a correlation between
days of high usage and low reports of wellbeing.  

Expected Results

A multi-variate analysis will test the predictability of attachment type
and social media usage, attachment type and wellbeing, as well as if there is a
significant relationship between social media usage and wellbeing. Attachment
type is expected to be found as a significant predictor of Snapchat usage. This
is consistent with prior research on Facebook; anxiously-attached participants will
report a statistically significantly higher amount of time throughout the day
both checking the social network (Blackwell et al., 2017); as well as a longer
time spent on the application per click. Avoidantly-attached individuals will presumably
spend a statistically significantly less amount of time both clicking on, and
time per click on Snapchat. 

Participants’ usage scores are hypothesised to be a predictor of subjective
wellbeing; scores consisting of one hour a day or more should be found to be statistically
significant in predicting negative wellbeing, thus demonstrating the dangers of
social networking when usage and dependency levels are too high. A positive
relationship will likely also be found between low Snapchat usage and high
levels of subjective wellbeing.

Whilst this finding would display addictive tendencies, more information
about the individuals’ day-to-day functioning will be needed if to make a
diagnosis of SNSs Addiction Disorder.

It is now the consensus that a person’s goals and individual needs will
influence how they engage in online communication, the content/nature of the
communication and the closeness of communication partners (Burke and Kraut,
2016). Specific uses of Facebook were linked to improvements in wellbeing, e.g.
receiving targeted and thoughtful communication from strong ties, whilst
wellbeing suffered when viewing wide-audience broadcasts. Tandoc, Ferrucci
& Duffy (2015) attributes high usage to negative wellbeing and a feeling of
envy; the more a social media is used, the more chance an individual has to
consume others’ personal information, and thus more instances in which they are
comparing themselves to others.

Future research should seek to establish whether the same negative
wellbeing consequences happen when individuals view other user’s Snapchat
stories, or if in fact the effect is heightened. Unlike Facebook, Snapchat
allows users to subscribe to their favourite celebrity icon’s stories and watch
them as soon as they are posted. This key difference may accentuate the social
networking envy effect as it exposes the users to advertising. Celebrity
endorsement is often used to promote products with the intention of promoting envy
as a marketing strategy on consumers (Belk, 2008). These psychological implications
need to be explored in terms specifically of Snapchat stories, so targeted
interventions can be made to reduce the damaging effects envy has been found to
have on wellbeing. Avoidantly-attached and secure individuals are unlikely to
be as susceptible to the negative implications due to their high levels of
self-sufficiency.

It was touched upon earlier that Snapchat is generally used for flirting
and initiating romantic interests. Furman and Wehner (1997) discuss how adolescent
relationships are ‘superficial’ and ‘awkward’, with relationships becoming more
serious with emotional development and age. Reasons for higher Snapchat usage could
arguably be attributed to the uncertainty adolescences face in relationships;
they tend to be less serious and this post-modern era generally provides even
less certainty than prior generations. Snapchat fosters the perfect conditions
and functions for adolescents seeking to experiment with multiple romantic
interests, hence a possible explanation for the results.

Ofcom (Office of Communications, 2008) identify two types of social
networkers: attention seekers and alpha socialisers. Their behaviour would be important
to study in terms of how they use Snapchat attention seekers and alpha
socialisers. Attention seekers thrive off virtual ‘likes’, whilst an alpha
socialiser engages in online flirting and banter. Snapchat does not implement a
‘like’ system, although users are able to post stories and receive direct
comments/feedback. Although, users are able to tell when another user has
viewed their story; this may be enough social reassurance in itself. The
platform would, however, appear perfectly adapted to an alpha socialiser’s
functional needs. Attachment type is likely to predict an alpha socialiser as a
securely-attached individual, with attention seekers anxiously-attached. Future
research would benefit in complementing this informed speculation and help in
the development of targeted psychological interventions regarding overuse of Snapchat.

Insecure attachment has previously been linked to depression (Devito,
2014) which demonstrates the importance of utilising the benefits social media
has in managing mental illness. Social ties offer emotional support,
demonstrated by Edson & Tandoc (2015). It was found Facebook use in moderation
has been found to lessen the effects of depression as a result of an increased
self-esteem and happiness when using certain functions of the media.

Positive psychology interventions may, in turn, reduce social media
usage or at least act as a buffer in protecting them against the negative
impacts Snapchat may have; this is particularly important for the anxiously-attached.
 Positive psychological interventions have
been proven to promote positive thoughts and emotions in times of distress, and
hence boost resilience and overall wellbeing. Sin & Lyubomirsky (2009)
found positive psychology interventions significantly enhance wellbeing and
decrease depressive symptoms, which emphasises the importance of positive
psychology. Although the effectiveness was impacted by factors such as the
severity of the depression, the basic premise findings are important in
positively influencing cognitions, even if improvement is gradual; it is
suggested that it would be beneficial for clinicians to deliver positive
interventions as individual therapy and for long periods of time, to ensure the
therapy is as effective as possibly one can learn to manage attachment issues
in a healthy way.

Healthy management of attachment problems is also important in terms of
the parent’s wellbeing. A lot of research seeks to merely prevent attachment
issues; which has detrimental effects on the parents’ wellbeing; sometimes
attachment problems are inevitable and cannot be avoided, e.g. if primary
caregiver goes into hospital because of physical or mental health. This
highlights the importance of demonstrating to parents with empirical evidence how
attachment type is not a be all and end, and it can be positively managed. This
will help to lessen any guilt felt by parents; emphasises an importance of both
the parents’ wellbeing and the child’s.

It is clear Snapchat’s new-found popularity amongst adolescents is
inevitably going to have implications, both good and bad. Snapchat has a few
unique functions which are being used excessively every single day with little
to no research onto what the consequences are; the NHS warns that if social
media is used for over three hours a day, there is danger of the development of
mental health disorders. If Snapchat use is found to be obsessive, this is a warning
sign of SNSs Addictive Disorder. It is clear intervention is necessary to avoid
dangers to psychological wellbeing. Positive psychology promotes positive
thinking, which in turn can help for emotional development and resilience; all
factors that act as coping mechanisms in times of stress. Positive thinking
strategies could be used to reduce SNSs envy or even lower usage altogether.