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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 3: Tagging Depression: Social Media and the Segmentation of Mental Health (Anthony McCosker)


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Tagging Depression

Social Media and the Segmentation of Mental Health

Anthony McCosker

It has become common to pair the ubiquity and always-on use of social media, its intimacy and crafted everyday presentations of our personal lives with mental health problems. A popular contention is that the manicured, curated content of social media belies or even engenders personal anxieties and depression. Experiences brought to light by the confessions and withdrawal from social media sites by Australian “insta-celebrity” and model Essena O’Neill offer a case in point (Alimohamadi, 2015). Her insistence that behind the attractive Instagram persona lies intense anxiety and emotional suffering brought renewed attention to the personal impact of social media platforms that revolve around visibility, impressions, and engagement through likes, shares, and comments. Social media profiles built on conveying healthy and successful lifestyle are big business. They herald a new method for connecting brands and products to people’s everyday communication contexts (Hearn, 2010; Marshall, 2014; Senft, 2013). But like many others who use and profit from social media platforms, O’Neill’s experience revealed that the immediacy of visual access to everyday life is heavily circumscribed by wellness, success, and confident self-expression.

The pairing of mental health issues and social media use has crossed between popular moral panic and clinical or public health concern. One recent psychological survey has investigated “the FOMO factor,” or the fear of missing out, as a contributor to anxiety and depression...

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