College Students in Distress: Can Social Media be a Source of Social Support


Our goal was to examine undergraduates’ social support sources, including social media (SM) sources and their preferences for SM features (i.e., anonymity and similar-peer communities). Participants were 662 undergraduates (438 women) from two midwestern colleges who completed an online survey in Spring, 2017. Students completed a demographic survey and depression/anxiety screener. They also indicated whether they turned to different people and SM resources when in distress. Those with high depression were less likely to identify parents and mental health professionals as sources of support. Those with high depression/anxiety were more likely to identify SM as a social support medium and indicate preferences for similar-peer communities; however, they also identified SM as stress-inducing. Therefore, SM may be a non-redundant source of social support for undergraduates; however, SM also may be stress inducing. SM featuring anonymity and similar-peer communities might be appealing to students, especially those at-risk.

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In Press