Chris Somerville: Thesis Paper Outline

Thesis Paper Outline


Problem Statement:


  • Research has shown that social media platforms such as Twitter can lead to an introverted and distorted views of reality.

  • Excessive online social media users display and are exposed to obsessive behaviour, virtual bullying, online prey/predatory behaviours and addiction, to name just a few examples.

  • Obsessive use distorts the users own interpretation of reality. Their world exists in the virtual world and not the physical world. Their perception of themselves and their identity is determined and influenced more by their virtual social media platform and virtual contacts than the physical contacts and relationships in their real world.

  • This very easily leads a social-media addict to make decisions in their life that negatively impact their social welfare and mental development. This is particularly true in young or novice digital media users. McLean notes that this is because it distorts one’s sense of socially responsible decision making.

  • This is where the danger lies. If a social-media user is not aware of these dangers than they could also fall into this obsessive behaviour that will result in decision making that is detrimental to their social development and their lives.

  • “[The]… internet supports communication at a distance, it allows for a degree of anonymity which, while it removes the barriers to engagement, can lead to destructive or reckless behavior.”[1]

  • “…there is also clear and well-documented evidence of problematic over-use of the internet, which impacts negatively on wellbeing.”[2]

  • “This includes participating in cyber-bullying, harassing or persuading others into harmful activity, anti-social behaviour such as posting offensive messages, and engaging in illegal activity such as unauthorized file sharing or downloading copyright protected material.”[3]

  • “Motivation, incentive, risk and reward are deeply entwined. For the ballet dancer that finished the performance on broken toes, the risks of stopping (damage to her immediate career) outweighed the risk of longer term damage. The danger of course is that, without proper reflection, in the heat of the moment the available immediate risks dominate. This way of thinking has become increasingly popular with the success of books such as ‘Freakanomics.’ The essential idea is that what can from the outside appear as irrational behavior becomes completely rational once motivations and incentives are properly understood. Many young peoples motivations relate to notions of identity, how they are perceived within their community, how they wish to be, and the relationship between the two. The pursuit of authenticity is a powerful driver, of being true to yourself, not selling out, keeping it real, and not being a poseur or fake, to use phrases from the past 40 years. Of course this sits badly with a period in young peoples development when they most need to experiment, to explore who they are, to develop their private sense of self while living highly public online lives. Helping young people to adopt effective strategies around managing their online identities might be a significant step towards ensuring they protect both their current and future selves as they grow up in public.”[4]



[1] Niel Mclean, “Physical Metaphors For Digital Safety”, A Provocation Paper written for Nominet Trust, 5

[2] Valkenburg, P. M., Peter, J. & Schouten, A. P. Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents’ well-being and social self-esteem. Cyberpsychology and Behavior 9, 584–590. (2006).

[3] Niel Mclean, “Physical Metaphors For Digital Safety”, A Provocation Paper written for Nominet Trust, 5

[4] Niel Mclean, “Physical Metaphors For Digital Safety”, A Provocation Paper written for Nominet Trust, 12