A systematic search of peer reviewed studies, identifying flourishing outcomes from usage, was conducted, resulting in 118 final studies across 7 social media platforms, 50,000+ participants, spanning 26 countries.
The paper explored social media in the framework of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) – a theory of motivation. It is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways. SDT has been researched and practiced by a network of researchers around the world and is comprised of three key areas.
Competence = seeking to control the outcome and experience mastery.
Relatedness = the universal drive to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others.
Autonomy = the universal urge to be causal agents of one’s own life and act in harmony with one’s integrated self.
The research analysis suggests potential for a ‘virtuous spiral’ where social media can positively affect our basic human needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence.
This model also recognises the interplay of the intrapersonal and the interpersonal, through sub-domains such as Community, Trust, Respect, Loneliness and Belonging – all relevant themes of time spent both online and offline.
The paper concluded that the interaction between social media usage and flourishing is ‘bi-directional and nuanced.’ Like all human interaction, we receive and give energy during the exchange. There are subtle shades of meaning we can interpret in different ways. It relies on a shift towards individuals being intentional in the nature of their engagement, to remain proactive and constructive to ensure they experience the benefits of social media use and minimise negative effects.