Media Research Paper

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The term media refers broadly to the range of tools that humans have used throughout history to communicate with each other about a shared reality. The most common reference is to the set of modern technologies – from the printing press to the Internet – which facilitate communication across space, time, and social collectives.

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Get 10% off with fall23 discount code, history of the concept of media.

The Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED) notes that while classical Latin medium referred to some middle entity or state, in postclassical Latin and in British sources from the twelfth century onward, medium and media also came to denote the means of doing something. On the one hand, a medium could be understood as a more or less incidental presence, linking natural phenomena of this world and some metaphysical realm. On the other hand, a medium can serve as an intentional instrument of human action in a modern sense. In the latter respect, the OED distinguishes two conceptions – medium as an artistic modality, material, or technique; and medium as a channel of mass communication – both of them from the mid-nineteenth century. This was the period when a general idea of communication took hold (Peters 1999), partly in response to new technological means of communication with important social and aesthetic implications, from telegraph and telephone, to film, radio and, later, television. It was not until the 1960s, however, that media came into general use as a term covering diverse technologies and institutions, most commonly in the sense of mass media, communicating from one center to a mass of dispersed and anonymous receivers.

Media Research Paper

Three Disciplinary Roots of Concepts

Each media concept implies a particular understanding of the basic communication model of sender, message, and receiver. The first concept, articulated in Lasswell’s paradigm (Lasswell 1948) – who says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect – approached the medium as a neutral conduit for the dissemination of information of all kinds. In order to assess the effects and implications of a given medium, such as a newspaper or a radio station, scholars might focus their attention on the strategies of the sender, the selectivity of the communicated message, the reach of the medium in question, or the susceptibility of the receivers to particular ideas. A great deal of subsequent work has questioned Lasswell’s focus on separate stages of communication, as associated with separate forms of media analysis. In fairness, Lasswell further emphasized the function of media as mechanisms of surveillance at a macro-level. Media are means of monitoring a society as well as its surroundings with a view to self-protection, self-regulation, and long-term stability. In this regard, media can be understood in social scientific terms as a particular set of institutions in society.

The second variant was stated in the mathematical theory of communication. Its basis was Claude Shannon’s research and development regarding the physical and technological conditions for the transfer of signals in telephone systems. A number of the insights were presented in a joint publication with Warren Weaver (Shannon & Weaver 1949), and it was this volume that influenced a good deal of theory development on media. In fact, Shannon was addressing the material aspects of how to design a communication system. In its popularized form, however, the underlying model of engineering was applied to humans as a description of social interaction. Although such applications have regularly been criticized as metaphorical and imprecise, the model has remained an important part of the heritage of communication theory. This may be due, in part, to the obvious point that media are concrete vehicles whose affordances and constraints condition their potential role in human communication. The attempt to account for media as material technologies with social implications has continued to occupy communication researchers.

The third concept derives from humanistic perspectives on media as aesthetic means of expression and as carriers of cultural and historical meaning. Rooted in centuries of rhetorical and hermeneutic scholarship, this discursive media concept received an influential formulation in Roman Jakobson’s (1960) model of communication. While carrying an outward resemblance to the models of Lasswell and Shannon and Weaver, Jakobson’s model grew out of literary theory, highlighting the various communicative functions of different linguistic and aesthetic choices by authors. Jakobson further made a distinction between the channel (what he termed contact – the material relation, such as book, newspaper, or Internet) and the code (the modalities or forms of expression, such as speech, writing, music, moving images, etc.). Compared to both Lasswell and Shannon and Weaver, however, Jakobson stayed entirely within the boundaries of the text or message, calling for an immanent analysis of how communicative functions manifest themselves in concrete textual structures, and bracketing the social contexts and uses of, for instance, literature or advertising. Much humanistic scholarship, accordingly, has approached media as forms of expression that are externalized and available for study in the form of discourses.

An Interdisciplinary Concept of Media

Particularly since the 1980s, much media research has been characterized by efforts at combining and integrating these concepts as dimensions within some form of theoretical systematic. A common position is that all three perspectives are necessary, and none of them sufficient, for a scientifically valid and socially relevant field of media studies. Interdisciplinary research and debate has explored not least the relationship between social sciences (media as institutions) and humanities (media as discourses) (for overview, see Jensen 2002b). Until recently, there appears to have been relatively less theory development devoted specifically to the interrelations between media as material technologies and media as institutions and discourses – despite the wealth of research on new media technologies as well as a growing interest in the distinctive affordances of different media technologies and their historical uses. Digitization has provided an impetus for reconsidering how, concretely, the materiality of media shapes, and is shaped by, culture and society.

The individual media can be understood as characteristic configurations of the human potential for communication at a given historical time. These configurations are organized along three dimensions – materials, modalities, and institutions – as identified in the three conceptions of a medium.

Media are physical materials which – in a particular cultural shape – enable forms of communication that previously had not been possible. Sound recordings, from the late 1800s, made possible the preservation of parts of the cultural heritage that until then had disappeared into the air. From the 1910s, recorded sound became mobile with the introduction of portable gramophones. And, from 1979, media users wearing a Walkman were able to create soundscapes that were at once mobile and private.

It is through specific forms of expression and experience that media enable human communication – language, music, moving images, etc. These modalities, on the one hand, are grounded biologically in the human senses. On the other hand, modalities have been subject to millennia of differentiation and cultivation. In modern media technologies, the modalities have entered into shifting and evolving genres – from novels and radio serials, to music videos and virtual worlds.


Media, finally, constitute distinctive institutions in society: through media, individuals and collectives can describe and reflect upon themselves as well as the rest of society. Media and other social institutions have jointly reproduced each other under changing technological and cultural circumstances. Print and electronic media extended cultures in space and sustained nation-states over time; nation-states and international treaties regulate the legal limits of public communication and the economic bases of each new medium. Television, for example, was developed as a consumer good for the home, financed by advertising or license fees, even though the material technology might have been framed socially on the model of cinema as a public or community activity.

In comparison with other meaningful cultural artifacts and social arrangements – from interior decorating to business transactions – the media that constitute the objects of analysis in media and communication research, are distinguished by their programmability, being uniquely flexible resources for the articulation of information and communicative interaction as part of an ongoing social structuration (Giddens 1984).

Whereas programmability is most commonly associated with the various levels of the digital computer, other communication platforms also lend themselves to combinatorial configurations. First, the modalities of media amount to semiotic registers of language, music, images, etc., allowing for an immense repertoire of genres and discourses, and engaging the human senses in selective and culturally conventional ways. Thus, media make possible the rendering of and interaction with worlds past and present, real and imagined. Second, the technologies of media provide the material substratum of such representations, not as fixed conduits, but as resources for accomplishing particular social and aesthetic ends. Third, media communicate to, about, and on behalf of social institutions, which, again, are shaped and reshaped through communication. As combinatorial systems, media and societies can be said to mutually program each other – a notion that, for example, systems theory has elaborated and formalized. The degrees of freedom that condition this entire process, in three dimensions, help to account for the relative indetermination of the structures and outcomes of mediated communication, and continue to challenge research on the question of what difference the media make.

Media of Three Degrees

The coming of digital media has stimulated renewed research interest in the duality of mediated and nonmediated communication. For one thing, ordinary human conversation, while nonmediated by technologies, is mediated by aural–oral modalities, in addition to body language, broadly speaking. For another thing, computer-mediated communication – email, chat, online gaming – often carries a stronger resemblance to interpersonal than to mass communication. In order to assess the implications of digital media as emerging social and cultural institutions, much ongoing work has begun to address the interrelations between different media types (Bolter & Grusin 1999; Manovich 2001; Lievrouw & Livingstone 2002). One explanatory framework would distinguish between media of three degrees (Jensen 2002a).

Media of the first degree can be defined as the biologically based, socially formed resources that enable humans to articulate an understanding of reality, for a particular purpose, and to engage in communication about it with others. The central example is verbal language, or speech, as constitutive of oral cultures and subcultures – additional examples include song and other musical expression, dance, drama, painting, and creative arts generally, often relying on mechanical techniques such as musical instruments and artistic or writing utensils as necessary elements. Importantly, such media depend on the presence of the human body in local time–space. While one might identify (spoken) language, or the human voice, as the medium, it is helpful to differentiate between, for instance, speech and song as media with reference to their different modalities, sharing the same material substratum, but commonly addressing different social institutions, contexts, and practices.

Media of the second degree come under the classic definition by Walter Benjamin (1936/1977) of the technically reproduced and enhanced forms of representation and interaction which support communication across space and time, irrespective of the presence and number of participants. Whereas Benjamin emphasized photography, film, and radio, media of the second degree range from early modern examples, including the standardized reproduction of religious and political texts by the printing press, to television and video. The common features are, first, one-to-one reproduction, storage, and presentation of a particular content and, second, radically extended possibilities for dissemination across time and space. These technologies had important consequences for major social institutions – from the breakup of the Catholic church to the rise of the nation-state. Also, modalities from media of the first degree were refashioned. In radio talk shows, conversation took on new conventions, just as acting styles were adapted from the theater stage to cinema and television.

It is debatable whether manuscripts, which fix speech, drawing, music, and other human communication in a stable format, should be considered a separate media category, partly in view of their epochal significance. In historical perspective, Meyrowitz (1994, 54) suggested that its comparatively inefficient forms of reproduction and distribution made handwriting a transitional cultural form. For a systematics of media, and from the perspective of media and communication research as a field, it can be argued that the production of manuscripts, like other media of the first degree, is embodied and local, laborious and error-prone; that their distribution is commonly selective rather than public, within established institutions, as supported by oral commentary; and that the constitutive role of handwriting in the reproduction of cultural tradition and social institutions has been taken over by media of the second degree.

Media of the third degree are the digitally processed forms of representation and interaction. Digital technology enables reproduction and recombination of all media of the second degree on a single platform: computers, thus, can be understood as metamedia (Kay & Goldberg 1977/1999). The central current example is the networked personal computer, although this interface, like that of mobile telephones, is likely to change substantially as technologies are adapted further to the human senses, and integrated into both common objects and social arrangements. Whereas classic mass media, such as illustrated magazines and television, combined modalities to a considerable degree, the scale and speed with which digitalization facilitates their incorporation and reconfiguration suggests that digital media may represent a qualitative shift from media of the second degree that is comparable to the shift from first-degree to second-degree media. The media types have not replaced each other – they recirculate the forms and contents of shifting cultural traditions in social contexts. They do, however, offer distinctive and ascending degrees of programmability in terms of adaptable technologies, differentiated modalities, and institutions transcending time, space, and social collectives.

The Double Hermeneutics

The development both of the concept of media and of media studies indicates that media are understood in historical context. The modern, general concept of communication was, in part, a response to nineteenth-century analog technologies (Peters 1999); current debates about the concept of media may be a response to twentieth-century digital technologies. This interplay of social and conceptual changes has been called a double hermeneutics (Giddens 1984): changing social realities challenge research to deliver new interpretations and explanations – which, in turn, may change society, for example, through the design and regulation of media.


  • Benjamin, W. (1977). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In J. Curran, M. Gurevitch, & J. Woollacott (eds.), Mass communication and society. London: Edward Arnold. (Original work published 1936).
  • Bolter, J. D., & Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Jakobson, R. (1960). Closing statement: Linguistics and poetics. In T. A. Sebeok (ed.), Style in language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Jensen, K. B. (2002a). Introduction: The state of convergence in media and communication research. In K. B. Jensen (ed.), A handbook of media and communication research: Qualitative and quantitative methodologies. London: Routledge.
  • Jensen, K. B. (ed.) (2002b). A handbook of media and communication research: Qualitative and quantitative methodologies. London: Routledge.
  • Kay, A., & Goldberg, A. (1999). Personal dynamic media. In P. A. Mayer (ed.), Computer media and communication: A reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 111–119. (Original work published 1977).
  • Lasswell, H. D. (1948). The structure and function of communication in society. In L. Bryson (ed.), The communication of ideas. New York: Harper, pp. 32 –51.
  • Lievrouw, L., & Livingstone, S. (eds.) (2002). Handbook of new media: Social shaping and social consequences. London: Sage.
  • Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Meyrowitz, J. (1994). Medium theory. In D. Crowley & D. Mitchell (eds.), Communication theory today. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Peters, J. D. (1999). Speaking into the air: A history of the idea of communication. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Shannon, C., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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research paper about media

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  • A Research Guide
  • Research Paper Topics

40 Media and Communications Research Paper Topics

  • What is communication? The birth of the media as we know it
  • Media, Censorship and Propaganda
  • The freedom of speech and its impact on the media
  • The main aspects of communication
  • The triggering topics. What do you need to start an instant “holywar” in media?
  • The phenomenon of hype and its usage of the media
  • Single bloggers versus media companies
  • Communication and media psychology
  • The history of advertising and its important in the modern business
  • The popular culture in the media
  • Video games. Can they be considered a media now?
  • Violence and controversial topics. Shall the media censor it out?
  • The peculiarities of children media
  • Are the videoblogs the new diaries?
  • Mainstream media versus arthouse
  • What is the age of post-truth in the media?
  • Social networks as the main way of communication in the modern world
  • Why exclusive material is so important in the media?
  • Fandom and fanfiction in the media
  • Mass Communication Laws in different countries
  • Media and disasters: enhancing panic or preventing it?
  • Terrorism in the media
  • Changes in the media during the wartime
  • Journalism ethics: what is it?
  • International journalism
  • Journalists on the battlefield
  • Media policy and regulation in different countries
  • How did the Internet influence media development?
  • Media: reacting to the events or creating them?
  • Virtual reality: may it be the future of the media?
  • Media downshifting: why do people revert to newspapers again?
  • Social media marketing campaigns
  • Media, politics and public relations
  • The styles and types of media. How they differ depending on the audience they are aiming for?
  • The phenomenon of Disney. Media or the new mythology?
  • Scientific journalism: shall science be popular?
  • Media for educational purpose
  • Radio media: why radio is still popular?
  • Hidden messages in the media made for entertainment
  • Media images of the representatives of different countries

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Original research article, effects of social media use on psychological well-being: a mediated model.

research paper about media

  • 1 School of Finance and Economics, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China
  • 2 Research Unit of Governance, Competitiveness, and Public Policies (GOVCOPP), Center for Economics and Finance (cef.up), School of Economics and Management, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  • 3 Department of Business Administration, Sukkur Institute of Business Administration (IBA) University, Sukkur, Pakistan
  • 4 CETYS Universidad, Tijuana, Mexico
  • 5 Department of Business Administration, Al-Quds University, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 6 Business School, Shandong University, Weihai, China

The growth in social media use has given rise to concerns about the impacts it may have on users' psychological well-being. This paper's main objective is to shed light on the effect of social media use on psychological well-being. Building on contributions from various fields in the literature, it provides a more comprehensive study of the phenomenon by considering a set of mediators, including social capital types (i.e., bonding social capital and bridging social capital), social isolation, and smartphone addiction. The paper includes a quantitative study of 940 social media users from Mexico, using structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the proposed hypotheses. The findings point to an overall positive indirect impact of social media usage on psychological well-being, mainly due to the positive effect of bonding and bridging social capital. The empirical model's explanatory power is 45.1%. This paper provides empirical evidence and robust statistical analysis that demonstrates both positive and negative effects coexist, helping to reconcile the inconsistencies found so far in the literature.


The use of social media has grown substantially in recent years ( Leong et al., 2019 ; Kemp, 2020 ). Social media refers to “the websites and online tools that facilitate interactions between users by providing them opportunities to share information, opinions, and interest” ( Swar and Hameed, 2017 , p. 141). Individuals use social media for many reasons, including entertainment, communication, and searching for information. Notably, adolescents and young adults are spending an increasing amount of time on online networking sites, e-games, texting, and other social media ( Twenge and Campbell, 2019 ). In fact, some authors (e.g., Dhir et al., 2018 ; Tateno et al., 2019 ) have suggested that social media has altered the forms of group interaction and its users' individual and collective behavior around the world.

Consequently, there are increased concerns regarding the possible negative impacts associated with social media usage addiction ( Swar and Hameed, 2017 ; Kircaburun et al., 2020 ), particularly on psychological well-being ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Jiao et al., 2017 ; Choi and Noh, 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ). Smartphones sometimes distract their users from relationships and social interaction ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Li et al., 2020a ), and several authors have stressed that the excessive use of social media may lead to smartphone addiction ( Swar and Hameed, 2017 ; Leong et al., 2019 ), primarily because of the fear of missing out ( Reer et al., 2019 ; Roberts and David, 2020 ). Social media usage has been associated with anxiety, loneliness, and depression ( Dhir et al., 2018 ; Reer et al., 2019 ), social isolation ( Van Den Eijnden et al., 2016 ; Whaite et al., 2018 ), and “phubbing,” which refers to the extent to which an individual uses, or is distracted by, their smartphone during face-to-face communication with others ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Jiao et al., 2017 ; Choi and Noh, 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ).

However, social media use also contributes to building a sense of connectedness with relevant others ( Twenge and Campbell, 2019 ), which may reduce social isolation. Indeed, social media provides several ways to interact both with close ties, such as family, friends, and relatives, and weak ties, including coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers ( Chen and Li, 2017 ), and plays a key role among people of all ages as they exploit their sense of belonging in different communities ( Roberts and David, 2020 ). Consequently, despite the fears regarding the possible negative impacts of social media usage on well-being, there is also an increasing number of studies highlighting social media as a new communication channel ( Twenge and Campbell, 2019 ; Barbosa et al., 2020 ), stressing that it can play a crucial role in developing one's presence, identity, and reputation, thus facilitating social interaction, forming and maintaining relationships, and sharing ideas ( Carlson et al., 2016 ), which consequently may be significantly correlated to social support ( Chen and Li, 2017 ; Holliman et al., 2021 ). Interestingly, recent studies (e.g., David et al., 2018 ; Bano et al., 2019 ; Barbosa et al., 2020 ) have suggested that the impact of smartphone usage on psychological well-being depends on the time spent on each type of application and the activities that users engage in.

Hence, the literature provides contradictory cues regarding the impacts of social media on users' well-being, highlighting both the possible negative impacts and the social enhancement it can potentially provide. In line with views on the need to further investigate social media usage ( Karikari et al., 2017 ), particularly regarding its societal implications ( Jiao et al., 2017 ), this paper argues that there is an urgent need to further understand the impact of the time spent on social media on users' psychological well-being, namely by considering other variables that mediate and further explain this effect.

One of the relevant perspectives worth considering is that provided by social capital theory, which is adopted in this paper. Social capital theory has previously been used to study how social media usage affects psychological well-being (e.g., Bano et al., 2019 ). However, extant literature has so far presented only partial models of associations that, although statistically acceptable and contributing to the understanding of the scope of social networks, do not provide as comprehensive a vision of the phenomenon as that proposed within this paper. Furthermore, the contradictory views, suggesting both negative (e.g., Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Van Den Eijnden et al., 2016 ; Jiao et al., 2017 ; Whaite et al., 2018 ; Choi and Noh, 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ) and positive impacts ( Carlson et al., 2016 ; Chen and Li, 2017 ; Twenge and Campbell, 2019 ) of social media on psychological well-being, have not been adequately explored.

Given this research gap, this paper's main objective is to shed light on the effect of social media use on psychological well-being. As explained in detail in the next section, this paper explores the mediating effect of bonding and bridging social capital. To provide a broad view of the phenomenon, it also considers several variables highlighted in the literature as affecting the relationship between social media usage and psychological well-being, namely smartphone addiction, social isolation, and phubbing. The paper utilizes a quantitative study conducted in Mexico, comprising 940 social media users, and uses structural equation modeling (SEM) to test a set of research hypotheses.

This article provides several contributions. First, it adds to existing literature regarding the effect of social media use on psychological well-being and explores the contradictory indications provided by different approaches. Second, it proposes a conceptual model that integrates complementary perspectives on the direct and indirect effects of social media use. Third, it offers empirical evidence and robust statistical analysis that demonstrates that both positive and negative effects coexist, helping resolve the inconsistencies found so far in the literature. Finally, this paper provides insights on how to help reduce the potential negative effects of social media use, as it demonstrates that, through bridging and bonding social capital, social media usage positively impacts psychological well-being. Overall, the article offers valuable insights for academics, practitioners, and society in general.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section Literature Review presents a literature review focusing on the factors that explain the impact of social media usage on psychological well-being. Based on the literature review, a set of hypotheses are defined, resulting in the proposed conceptual model, which includes both the direct and indirect effects of social media usage on psychological well-being. Section Research Methodology explains the methodological procedures of the research, followed by the presentation and discussion of the study's results in section Results. Section Discussion is dedicated to the conclusions and includes implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

Literature Review

Putnam (1995 , p. 664–665) defined social capital as “features of social life – networks, norms, and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives.” Li and Chen (2014 , p. 117) further explained that social capital encompasses “resources embedded in one's social network, which can be assessed and used for instrumental or expressive returns such as mutual support, reciprocity, and cooperation.”

Putnam (1995 , 2000) conceptualized social capital as comprising two dimensions, bridging and bonding, considering the different norms and networks in which they occur. Bridging social capital refers to the inclusive nature of social interaction and occurs when individuals from different origins establish connections through social networks. Hence, bridging social capital is typically provided by heterogeneous weak ties ( Li and Chen, 2014 ). This dimension widens individual social horizons and perspectives and provides extended access to resources and information. Bonding social capital refers to the social and emotional support each individual receives from his or her social networks, particularly from close ties (e.g., family and friends).

Overall, social capital is expected to be positively associated with psychological well-being ( Bano et al., 2019 ). Indeed, Williams (2006) stressed that interaction generates affective connections, resulting in positive impacts, such as emotional support. The following sub-sections use the lens of social capital theory to explore further the relationship between the use of social media and psychological well-being.

Social Media Use, Social Capital, and Psychological Well-Being

The effects of social media usage on social capital have gained increasing scholarly attention, and recent studies have highlighted a positive relationship between social media use and social capital ( Brown and Michinov, 2019 ; Tefertiller et al., 2020 ). Li and Chen (2014) hypothesized that the intensity of Facebook use by Chinese international students in the United States was positively related to social capital forms. A longitudinal survey based on the quota sampling approach illustrated the positive effects of social media use on the two social capital dimensions ( Chen and Li, 2017 ). Abbas and Mesch (2018) argued that, as Facebook usage increases, it will also increase users' social capital. Karikari et al. (2017) also found positive effects of social media use on social capital. Similarly, Pang (2018) studied Chinese students residing in Germany and found positive effects of social networking sites' use on social capital, which, in turn, was positively associated with psychological well-being. Bano et al. (2019) analyzed the 266 students' data and found positive effects of WhatsApp use on social capital forms and the positive effect of social capital on psychological well-being, emphasizing the role of social integration in mediating this positive effect.

Kim and Kim (2017) stressed the importance of having a heterogeneous network of contacts, which ultimately enhances the potential social capital. Overall, the manifest and social relations between people from close social circles (bonding social capital) and from distant social circles (bridging social capital) are strengthened when they promote communication, social support, and the sharing of interests, knowledge, and skills, which are shared with other members. This is linked to positive effects on interactions, such as acceptance, trust, and reciprocity, which are related to the individuals' health and psychological well-being ( Bekalu et al., 2019 ), including when social media helps to maintain social capital between social circles that exist outside of virtual communities ( Ellison et al., 2007 ).

Grounded on the above literature, this study proposes the following hypotheses:

H1a: Social media use is positively associated with bonding social capital.

H1b: Bonding social capital is positively associated with psychological well-being.

H2a: Social media use is positively associated with bridging social capital.

H2b: Bridging social capital is positively associated with psychological well-being.

Social Media Use, Social Isolation, and Psychological Well-Being

Social isolation is defined as “a deficit of personal relationships or being excluded from social networks” ( Choi and Noh, 2019 , p. 4). The state that occurs when an individual lacks true engagement with others, a sense of social belonging, and a satisfying relationship is related to increased mortality and morbidity ( Primack et al., 2017 ). Those who experience social isolation are deprived of social relationships and lack contact with others or involvement in social activities ( Schinka et al., 2012 ). Social media usage has been associated with anxiety, loneliness, and depression ( Dhir et al., 2018 ; Reer et al., 2019 ), and social isolation ( Van Den Eijnden et al., 2016 ; Whaite et al., 2018 ). However, some recent studies have argued that social media use decreases social isolation ( Primack et al., 2017 ; Meshi et al., 2020 ). Indeed, the increased use of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, among others, may provide opportunities for decreasing social isolation. For instance, the improved interpersonal connectivity achieved via videos and images on social media helps users evidence intimacy, attenuating social isolation ( Whaite et al., 2018 ).

Chappell and Badger (1989) stated that social isolation leads to decreased psychological well-being, while Choi and Noh (2019) concluded that greater social isolation is linked to increased suicide risk. Schinka et al. (2012) further argued that, when individuals experience social isolation from siblings, friends, family, or society, their psychological well-being tends to decrease. Thus, based on the literature cited above, this study proposes the following hypotheses:

H3a: Social media use is significantly associated with social isolation.

H3b: Social isolation is negatively associated with psychological well-being.

Social Media Use, Smartphone Addiction, Phubbing, and Psychological Well-Being

Smartphone addiction refers to “an individuals' excessive use of a smartphone and its negative effects on his/her life as a result of his/her inability to control his behavior” ( Gökçearslan et al., 2018 , p. 48). Regardless of its form, smartphone addiction results in social, medical, and psychological harm to people by limiting their ability to make their own choices ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ). The rapid advancement of information and communication technologies has led to the concept of social media, e-games, and also to smartphone addiction ( Chatterjee, 2020 ). The excessive use of smartphones for social media use, entertainment (watching videos, listening to music), and playing e-games is more common amongst people addicted to smartphones ( Jeong et al., 2016 ). In fact, previous studies have evidenced the relationship between social use and smartphone addiction ( Salehan and Negahban, 2013 ; Jeong et al., 2016 ; Swar and Hameed, 2017 ). In line with this, the following hypotheses are proposed:

H4a: Social media use is positively associated with smartphone addiction.

H4b: Smartphone addiction is negatively associated with psychological well-being.

While smartphones are bringing individuals closer, they are also, to some extent, pulling people apart ( Tonacci et al., 2019 ). For instance, they can lead to individuals ignoring others with whom they have close ties or physical interactions; this situation normally occurs due to extreme smartphone use (i.e., at the dinner table, in meetings, at get-togethers and parties, and in other daily activities). This act of ignoring others is called phubbing and is considered a common phenomenon in communication activities ( Guazzini et al., 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ). Phubbing is also referred to as an act of snubbing others ( Chatterjee, 2020 ). This term was initially used in May 2012 by an Australian advertising agency to describe the “growing phenomenon of individuals ignoring their families and friends who were called phubbee (a person who is a recipients of phubbing behavior) victim of phubber (a person who start phubbing her or his companion)” ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2018 ). Smartphone addiction has been found to be a determinant of phubbing ( Kim et al., 2018 ). Other recent studies have also evidenced the association between smartphones and phubbing ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Guazzini et al., 2019 ; Tonacci et al., 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ). Vallespín et al. (2017 ) argued that phubbing behavior has a negative influence on psychological well-being and satisfaction. Furthermore, smartphone addiction is considered responsible for the development of new technologies. It may also negatively influence individual's psychological proximity ( Chatterjee, 2020 ). Therefore, based on the above discussion and calls for the association between phubbing and psychological well-being to be further explored, this study proposes the following hypotheses:

H5: Smartphone addiction is positively associated with phubbing.

H6: Phubbing is negatively associated with psychological well-being.

Indirect Relationship Between Social Media Use and Psychological Well-Being

Beyond the direct hypotheses proposed above, this study investigates the indirect effects of social media use on psychological well-being mediated by social capital forms, social isolation, and phubbing. As described above, most prior studies have focused on the direct influence of social media use on social capital forms, social isolation, smartphone addiction, and phubbing, as well as the direct impact of social capital forms, social isolation, smartphone addiction, and phubbing on psychological well-being. Very few studies, however, have focused on and evidenced the mediating role of social capital forms, social isolation, smartphone addiction, and phubbing derived from social media use in improving psychological well-being ( Chen and Li, 2017 ; Pang, 2018 ; Bano et al., 2019 ; Choi and Noh, 2019 ). Moreover, little is known about smartphone addiction's mediating role between social media use and psychological well-being. Therefore, this study aims to fill this gap in the existing literature by investigating the mediation of social capital forms, social isolation, and smartphone addiction. Further, examining the mediating influence will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of social media use on psychological well-being via the mediating associations of smartphone addiction and psychological factors. Therefore, based on the above, we propose the following hypotheses (the conceptual model is presented in Figure 1 ):

H7: (a) Bonding social capital; (b) bridging social capital; (c) social isolation; and (d) smartphone addiction mediate the relationship between social media use and psychological well-being.

Figure 1 . Conceptual model.

Research Methodology

Sample procedure and online survey.

This study randomly selected students from universities in Mexico. We chose University students for the following reasons. First, students are considered the most appropriate sample for e-commerce studies, particularly in the social media context ( Oghazi et al., 2018 ; Shi et al., 2018 ). Second, University students are considered to be frequent users and addicted to smartphones ( Mou et al., 2017 ; Stouthuysen et al., 2018 ). Third, this study ensured that respondents were experienced, well-educated, and possessed sufficient knowledge of the drawbacks of social media and the extreme use of smartphones. A total sample size of 940 University students was ultimately achieved from the 1,500 students contacted, using a convenience random sampling approach, due both to the COVID-19 pandemic and budget and time constraints. Additionally, in order to test the model, a quantitative empirical study was conducted, using an online survey method to collect data. This study used a web-based survey distributed via social media platforms for two reasons: the COVID-19 pandemic; and to reach a large number of respondents ( Qalati et al., 2021 ). Furthermore, online surveys are considered a powerful and authenticated tool for new research ( Fan et al., 2021 ), while also representing a fast, simple, and less costly approach to collecting data ( Dutot and Bergeron, 2016 ).

Data Collection Procedures and Respondent's Information

Data were collected by disseminating a link to the survey by e-mail and social network sites. Before presenting the closed-ended questionnaire, respondents were assured that their participation would remain voluntary, confidential, and anonymous. Data collection occurred from July 2020 to December 2020 (during the pandemic). It should be noted that, because data were collected during the pandemic, this may have had an influence on the results of the study. The reason for choosing a six-month lag time was to mitigate common method bias (CMB) ( Li et al., 2020b ). In the present study, 1,500 students were contacted via University e-mail and social applications (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram). We sent a reminder every month for 6 months (a total of six reminders), resulting in 940 valid responses. Thus, 940 (62.6% response rate) responses were used for hypotheses testing.

Table 1 reveals that, of the 940 participants, three-quarters were female (76.4%, n = 719) and nearly one-quarter (23.6%, n = 221) were male. Nearly half of the participants (48.8%, n = 459) were aged between 26 and 35 years, followed by 36 to 35 years (21.9%, n = 206), <26 (20.3%, n = 191), and over 45 (8.9%, n = 84). Approximately two-thirds (65%, n = 611) had a bachelor's degree or above, while one-third had up to 12 years of education. Regarding the daily frequency of using the Internet, nearly half (48.6%, n = 457) of the respondents reported between 5 and 8 h a day, and over one-quarter (27.2%) 9–12 h a day. Regarding the social media platforms used, over 38.5 and 39.6% reported Facebook and WhatsApp, respectively. Of the 940 respondents, only 22.1% reported Instagram (12.8%) and Twitter (9.2%). It should be noted, however, that the sample is predominantly female and well-educated.

Table 1 . Respondents' characteristics.

Measurement Items

The study used five-point Likert scales (1 = “strongly disagree;” 5 = “strongly agree”) to record responses.

Social Media Use

Social media use was assessed using four items adapted from Karikari et al. (2017) . Sample items include “Social media is part of my everyday activity,” “Social media has become part of my daily life,” “I would be sorry if social media shut down,” and “I feel out of touch, when I have not logged onto social media for a while.” The adapted items had robust reliability and validity (CA = 783, CR = 0.857, AVE = 0.600).

Social Capital

Social capital was measured using a total of eight items, representing bonding social capital (four items) and bridging social capital (four items) adapted from Chan (2015) . Sample construct items include: bonging social capital (“I am willing to spend time to support general community activities,” “I interact with people who are quite different from me”) and bridging social capital (“My social media community is a good place to be,” “Interacting with people on social media makes me want to try new things”). The adapted items had robust reliability and validity [bonding social capital (CA = 0.785, CR = 0.861, AVE = 0.608) and bridging social capital (CA = 0.834, CR = 0.883, AVE = 0.601)].

Social Isolation

Social isolation was assessed using three items from Choi and Noh (2019) . Sample items include “I do not have anyone to play with,” “I feel alone from people,” and “I have no one I can trust.” This adapted scale had substantial reliability and validity (CA = 0.890, CR = 0.928, AVE = 0.811).

Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction was assessed using five items taken from Salehan and Negahban (2013) . Sample items include “I am always preoccupied with my mobile,” “Using my mobile phone keeps me relaxed,” and “I am not able to control myself from frequent use of mobile phones.” Again, these adapted items showed substantial reliability and validity (CA = 903, CR = 0.928, AVE = 0.809).

Phubbing was assessed using four items from Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas (2018) . Sample items include: “I have conflicts with others because I am using my phone” and “I would rather pay attention to my phone than talk to others.” This construct also demonstrated significant reliability and validity (CA = 770, CR = 0.894, AVE = 0.809).

Psychological Well-Being

Psychological well-being was assessed using five items from Jiao et al. (2017) . Sample items include “I lead a purposeful and meaningful life with the help of others,” “My social relationships are supportive and rewarding in social media,” and “I am engaged and interested in my daily on social media.” This study evidenced that this adapted scale had substantial reliability and validity (CA = 0.886, CR = 0.917, AVE = 0.688).

Data Analysis

Based on the complexity of the association between the proposed construct and the widespread use and acceptance of SmartPLS 3.0 in several fields ( Hair et al., 2019 ), we utilized SEM, using SmartPLS 3.0, to examine the relationships between constructs. Structural equation modeling is a multivariate statistical analysis technique that is used to investigate relationships. Further, it is a combination of factor and multivariate regression analysis, and is employed to explore the relationship between observed and latent constructs.

SmartPLS 3.0 “is a more comprehensive software program with an intuitive graphical user interface to run partial least square SEM analysis, certainly has had a massive impact” ( Sarstedt and Cheah, 2019 ). According to Ringle et al. (2015) , this commercial software offers a wide range of algorithmic and modeling options, improved usability, and user-friendly and professional support. Furthermore, Sarstedt and Cheah (2019) suggested that structural equation models enable the specification of complex interrelationships between observed and latent constructs. Hair et al. (2019) argued that, in recent years, the number of articles published using partial least squares SEM has increased significantly in contrast to covariance-based SEM. In addition, partial least squares SEM using SmartPLS is more appealing for several scholars as it enables them to predict more complex models with several variables, indicator constructs, and structural paths, instead of imposing distributional assumptions on the data ( Hair et al., 2019 ). Therefore, this study utilized the partial least squares SEM approach using SmartPLS 3.0.

Common Method Bias (CMB) Test

This study used the Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin (KMO) test to measure the sampling adequacy and ensure data suitability. The KMO test result was 0.874, which is greater than an acceptable threshold of 0.50 ( Ali Qalati et al., 2021 ; Shrestha, 2021 ), and hence considered suitable for explanatory factor analysis. Moreover, Bartlett's test results demonstrated a significance level of 0.001, which is considered good as it is below the accepted threshold of 0.05.

The term CMB is associated with Campbell and Fiske (1959) , who highlighted the importance of CMB and identified that a portion of variance in the research may be due to the methods employed. It occurs when all scales of the study are measured at the same time using a single questionnaire survey ( Podsakoff and Organ, 1986 ); subsequently, estimates of the relationship among the variables might be distorted by the impacts of CMB. It is considered a serious issue that has a potential to “jeopardize” the validity of the study findings ( Tehseen et al., 2017 ). There are several reasons for CMB: (1) it mainly occurs due to response “tendencies that raters can apply uniformity across the measures;” and (2) it also occurs due to similarities in the wording and structure of the survey items that produce similar results ( Jordan and Troth, 2019 ). Harman's single factor test and a full collinearity approach were employed to ensure that the data was free from CMB ( Tehseen et al., 2017 ; Jordan and Troth, 2019 ; Ali Qalati et al., 2021 ). Harman's single factor test showed a single factor explained only 22.8% of the total variance, which is far below the 50.0% acceptable threshold ( Podsakoff et al., 2003 ).

Additionally, the variance inflation factor (VIF) was used, which is a measure of the amount of multicollinearity in a set of multiple regression constructs and also considered a way of detecting CMB ( Hair et al., 2019 ). Hair et al. (2019) suggested that the acceptable threshold for the VIF is 3.0; as the computed VIFs for the present study ranged from 1.189 to 1.626, CMB is not a key concern (see Table 2 ). Bagozzi et al. (1991) suggested a correlation-matrix procedure to detect CMB. Common method bias is evident if correlation among the principle constructs is >0.9 ( Tehseen et al., 2020 ); however, no values >0.9 were found in this study (see section Assessment of Measurement Model). This study used a two-step approach to evaluate the measurement model and the structural model.

Table 2 . Common method bias (full collinearity VIF).

Assessment of Measurement Model

Before conducting the SEM analysis, the measurement model was assessed to examine individual item reliability, internal consistency, and convergent and discriminant validity. Table 3 exhibits the values of outer loading used to measure an individual item's reliability ( Hair et al., 2012 ). Hair et al. (2017) proposed that the value for each outer loading should be ≥0.7; following this principle, two items of phubbing (PHUB3—I get irritated if others ask me to get off my phone and talk to them; PHUB4—I use my phone even though I know it irritated others) were removed from the analysis Hair et al. (2019) . According to Nunnally (1978) , Cronbach's alpha values should exceed 0.7. The threshold values of constructs in this study ranged from 0.77 to 0.903. Regarding internal consistency, Bagozzi and Yi (1988) suggested that composite reliability (CR) should be ≥0.7. The coefficient value for CR in this study was between 0.857 and 0.928. Regarding convergent validity, Fornell and Larcker (1981) suggested that the average variance extracted (AVE) should be ≥0.5. Average variance extracted values in this study were between 0.60 and 0.811. Finally, regarding discriminant validity, according to Fornell and Larcker (1981) , the square root of the AVE for each construct should exceed the inter-correlations of the construct with other model constructs. That was the case in this study, as shown in Table 4 .

Table 3 . Study measures, factor loading, and the constructs' reliability and convergent validity.

Table 4 . Discriminant validity and correlation.

Hence, by analyzing the results of the measurement model, it can be concluded that the data are adequate for structural equation estimation.

Assessment of the Structural Model

This study used the PLS algorithm and a bootstrapping technique with 5,000 bootstraps as proposed by Hair et al. (2019) to generate the path coefficient values and their level of significance. The coefficient of determination ( R 2 ) is an important measure to assess the structural model and its explanatory power ( Henseler et al., 2009 ; Hair et al., 2019 ). Table 5 and Figure 2 reveal that the R 2 value in the present study was 0.451 for psychological well-being, which means that 45.1% of changes in psychological well-being occurred due to social media use, social capital forms (i.e., bonding and bridging), social isolation, smartphone addiction, and phubbing. Cohen (1998) proposed that R 2 values of 0.60, 0.33, and 0.19 are considered substantial, moderate, and weak. Following Cohen's (1998) threshold values, this research demonstrates a moderate predicting power for psychological well-being among Mexican respondents ( Table 6 ).

Table 5 . Summary of path coefficients and hypothesis testing.

Figure 2 . Structural model.

Table 6 . Strength of the model (Predictive relevance, coefficient of determination, and model fit indices).

Apart from the R 2 measure, the present study also used cross-validated redundancy measures, or effect sizes ( q 2 ), to assess the proposed model and validate the results ( Ringle et al., 2012 ). Hair et al. (2019) suggested that a model exhibiting an effect size q 2 > 0 has predictive relevance ( Table 6 ). This study's results evidenced that it has a 0.15 <0.29 <0.35 (medium) predictive relevance, as 0.02, 0.15, and 0.35 are considered small, medium, and large, respectively ( Cohen, 1998 ). Regarding the goodness-of-fit indices, Hair et al. (2019) suggested the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) to evaluate the goodness of fit. Standardized root mean square is an absolute measure of fit: a value of zero indicates perfect fit and a value <0.08 is considered good fit ( Hair et al., 2019 ). This study exhibits an adequate model fitness level with an SRMR value of 0.063 ( Table 6 ).

Table 5 reveals that all hypotheses of the study were accepted base on the criterion ( p -value < 0.05). H1a (β = 0.332, t = 10.283, p = 0.001) was confirmed, with the second most robust positive and significant relationship (between social media use and bonding social capital). In addition, this study evidenced a positive and significant relationship between bonding social capital and psychological well-being (β = 0.127, t = 4.077, p = 0.001); therefore, H1b was accepted. Regarding social media use and bridging social capital, the present study found the most robust positive and significant impact (β = 0.439, t = 15.543, p = 0.001); therefore, H2a was accepted. The study also evidenced a positive and significant association between bridging social capital and psychological well-being (β = 0.561, t = 20.953, p = 0.001); thus, H2b was accepted. The present study evidenced a significant effect of social media use on social isolation (β = 0.145, t = 4.985, p = 0.001); thus, H3a was accepted. In addition, this study accepted H3b (β = −0.051, t = 2.01, p = 0.044). Furthermore, this study evidenced a positive and significant effect of social media use on smartphone addiction (β = 0.223, t = 6.241, p = 0.001); therefore, H4a was accepted. Furthermore, the present study found that smartphone addiction has a negative significant influence on psychological well-being (β = −0.068, t = 2.387, p = 0.017); therefore, H4b was accepted. Regarding the relationship between smartphone addiction and phubbing, this study found a positive and significant effect of smartphone addiction on phubbing (β = 0.244, t = 7.555, p = 0.001); therefore, H5 was accepted. Furthermore, the present research evidenced a positive and significant influence of phubbing on psychological well-being (β = 0.137, t = 4.938, p = 0.001); therefore, H6 was accepted. Finally, the study provides interesting findings on the indirect effect of social media use on psychological well-being ( t -value > 1.96 and p -value < 0.05); therefore, H7a–d were accepted.

Furthermore, to test the mediating analysis, Preacher and Hayes's (2008) approach was used. The key characteristic of an indirect relationship is that it involves a third construct, which plays a mediating role in the relationship between the independent and dependent constructs. Logically, the effect of A (independent construct) on C (the dependent construct) is mediated by B (a third variable). Preacher and Hayes (2008) suggested the following: B is a construct acting as a mediator if A significantly influences B, A significantly accounts for variability in C, B significantly influences C when controlling for A, and the influence of A on C decreases significantly when B is added simultaneously with A as a predictor of C. According to Matthews et al. (2018) , if the indirect effect is significant while the direct insignificant, full mediation has occurred, while if both direct and indirect effects are substantial, partial mediation has occurred. This study evidenced that there is partial mediation in the proposed construct ( Table 5 ). Following Preacher and Hayes (2008) this study evidenced that there is partial mediation in the proposed construct, because the relationship between independent variable (social media use) and dependent variable (psychological well-being) is significant ( p -value < 0.05) and indirect effect among them after introducing mediator (bonding social capital, bridging social capital, social isolation, and smartphone addiction) is also significant ( p -value < 0.05), therefore it is evidenced that when there is a significant effect both direct and indirect it's called partial mediation.

The present study reveals that the social and psychological impacts of social media use among University students is becoming more complex as there is continuing advancement in technology, offering a range of affordable interaction opportunities. Based on the 940 valid responses collected, all the hypotheses were accepted ( p < 0.05).

H1a finding suggests that social media use is a significant influencing factor of bonding social capital. This implies that, during a pandemic, social media use enables students to continue their close relationships with family members, friends, and those with whom they have close ties. This finding is in line with prior work of Chan (2015) and Ellison et al. (2007) , who evidenced that social bonding capital is predicted by Facebook use and having a mobile phone. H1b findings suggest that, when individuals believe that social communication can help overcome obstacles to interaction and encourage more virtual self-disclosure, social media use can improve trust and promote the establishment of social associations, thereby enhancing well-being. These findings are in line with those of Gong et al. (2021) , who also witnessed the significant effect of bonding social capital on immigrants' psychological well-being, subsequently calling for the further evidence to confirm the proposed relationship.

The findings of the present study related to H2a suggest that students are more likely to use social media platforms to receive more emotional support, increase their ability to mobilize others, and to build social networks, which leads to social belongingness. Furthermore, the findings suggest that social media platforms enable students to accumulate and maintain bridging social capital; further, online classes can benefit students who feel shy when participating in offline classes. This study supports the previous findings of Chan (2015) and Karikari et al. (2017) . Notably, the present study is not limited to a single social networking platform, taking instead a holistic view of social media. The H2b findings are consistent with those of Bano et al. (2019) , who also confirmed the link between bonding social capital and psychological well-being among University students using WhatsApp as social media platform, as well as those of Chen and Li (2017) .

The H3a findings suggest that, during the COVID-19 pandemic when most people around the world have had limited offline or face-to-face interaction and have used social media to connect with families, friends, and social communities, they have often been unable to connect with them. This is due to many individuals avoiding using social media because of fake news, financial constraints, and a lack of trust in social media; thus, the lack both of offline and online interaction, coupled with negative experiences on social media use, enhances the level of social isolation ( Hajek and König, 2021 ). These findings are consistent with those of Adnan and Anwar (2020) . The H3b suggests that higher levels of social isolation have a negative impact on psychological well-being. These result indicating that, consistent with Choi and Noh (2019) , social isolation is negatively and significantly related to psychological well-being.

The H4a results suggests that substantial use of social media use leads to an increase in smartphone addiction. These findings are in line with those of Jeong et al. (2016) , who stated that the excessive use of smartphones for social media, entertainment (watching videos, listening to music), and playing e-games was more likely to lead to smartphone addiction. These findings also confirm the previous work of Jeong et al. (2016) , Salehan and Negahban (2013) , and Swar and Hameed (2017) . The H4b results revealed that a single unit increase in smartphone addiction results in a 6.8% decrease in psychological well-being. These findings are in line with those of Tangmunkongvorakul et al. (2019) , who showed that students with higher levels of smartphone addiction had lower psychological well-being scores. These findings also support those of Shoukat (2019) , who showed that smartphone addiction inversely influences individuals' mental health.

This suggests that the greater the smartphone addiction, the greater the phubbing. The H5 findings are in line with those of Chatterjee (2020) , Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas (2016) , Guazzini et al. (2019) , and Tonacci et al. (2019) , who also evidenced a significant impact of smartphone addiction and phubbing. Similarly, Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas (2018) corroborated that smartphone addiction is the main predictor of phubbing behavior. However, these findings are inconsistent with those of Vallespín et al. (2017 ), who found a negative influence of phubbing.

The H6 results suggests that phubbing is one of the significant predictors of psychological well-being. Furthermore, these findings suggest that, when phubbers use a cellphone during interaction with someone, especially during the current pandemic, and they are connected with many family members, friends, and relatives; therefore, this kind of action gives them more satisfaction, which simultaneously results in increased relaxation and decreased depression ( Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2018 ). These findings support those of Davey et al. (2018) , who evidenced that phubbing has a significant influence on adolescents and social health students in India.

The findings showed a significant and positive effect of social media use on psychological well-being both through bridging and bonding social capital. However, a significant and negative effect of social media use on psychological well-being through smartphone addiction and through social isolation was also found. Hence, this study provides evidence that could shed light on the contradictory contributions in the literature suggesting both positive (e.g., Chen and Li, 2017 ; Twenge and Campbell, 2019 ; Roberts and David, 2020 ) and negative (e.g., Chotpitayasunondh and Douglas, 2016 ; Jiao et al., 2017 ; Choi and Noh, 2019 ; Chatterjee, 2020 ) effects of social media use on psychological well-being. This study concludes that the overall impact is positive, despite some degree of negative indirect impact.

Theoretical Contributions

This study's findings contribute to the current literature, both by providing empirical evidence for the relationships suggested by extant literature and by demonstrating the relevance of adopting a more complex approach that considers, in particular, the indirect effect of social media on psychological well-being. As such, this study constitutes a basis for future research ( Van Den Eijnden et al., 2016 ; Whaite et al., 2018 ) aiming to understand the impacts of social media use and to find ways to reduce its possible negative impacts.

In line with Kim and Kim (2017) , who stressed the importance of heterogeneous social networks in improving social capital, this paper suggests that, to positively impact psychological well-being, social media usage should be associated both with strong and weak ties, as both are important in building social capital, and hence associated with its bonding and bridging facets. Interestingly, though, bridging capital was shown as having the greatest impact on psychological well-being. Thus, the importance of wider social horizons, the inclusion in different groups, and establishing new connections ( Putnam, 1995 , 2000 ) with heterogeneous weak ties ( Li and Chen, 2014 ) are highlighted in this paper.

Practical Contributions

These findings are significant for practitioners, particularly those interested in dealing with the possible negative impacts of social media use on psychological well-being. Although social media use is associated with factors that negatively impact psychological well-being, particularly smartphone addiction and social isolation, these negative impacts can be lessened if the connections with both strong and weak ties are facilitated and featured by social media. Indeed, social media platforms offer several features, from facilitating communication with family, friends, and acquaintances, to identifying and offering access to other people with shared interests. However, it is important to access heterogeneous weak ties ( Li and Chen, 2014 ) so that social media offers access to wider sources of information and new resources, hence enhancing bridging social capital.

Limitations and Directions for Future Studies

This study is not without limitations. For example, this study used a convenience sampling approach to reach to a large number of respondents. Further, this study was conducted in Mexico only, limiting the generalizability of the results; future research should therefore use a cross-cultural approach to investigate the impacts of social media use on psychological well-being and the mediating role of proposed constructs (e.g., bonding and bridging social capital, social isolation, and smartphone addiction). The sample distribution may also be regarded as a limitation of the study because respondents were mainly well-educated and female. Moreover, although Internet channels represent a particularly suitable way to approach social media users, the fact that this study adopted an online survey does not guarantee a representative sample of the population. Hence, extrapolating the results requires caution, and study replication is recommended, particularly with social media users from other countries and cultures. The present study was conducted in the context of mainly University students, primarily well-educated females, via an online survey on in Mexico; therefore, the findings represent a snapshot at a particular time. Notably, however, the effect of social media use is increasing due to COVID-19 around the globe and is volatile over time.

Two of the proposed hypotheses of this study, namely the expected negative impacts of social media use on social isolation and of phubbing on psychological well-being, should be further explored. One possible approach is to consider the type of connections (i.e., weak and strong ties) to explain further the impact of social media usage on social isolation. Apparently, the prevalence of weak ties, although facilitating bridging social capital, may have an adverse impact in terms of social isolation. Regarding phubbing, the fact that the findings point to a possible positive impact on psychological well-being should be carefully addressed, specifically by psychology theorists and scholars, in order to identify factors that may help further understand this phenomenon. Other suggestions for future research include using mixed-method approaches, as qualitative studies could help further validate the results and provide complementary perspectives on the relationships between the considered variables.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by Jiangsu University. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.

This study is supported by the National Statistics Research Project of China (2016LY96).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: smartphone addiction, social isolation, bonding social capital, bridging social capital, phubbing, social media use

Citation: Ostic D, Qalati SA, Barbosa B, Shah SMM, Galvan Vela E, Herzallah AM and Liu F (2021) Effects of Social Media Use on Psychological Well-Being: A Mediated Model. Front. Psychol. 12:678766. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.678766

Received: 10 March 2021; Accepted: 25 May 2021; Published: 21 June 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Ostic, Qalati, Barbosa, Shah, Galvan Vela, Herzallah and Liu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Sikandar Ali Qalati, ; ; Esthela Galvan Vela,

† ORCID: Dragana Ostic Sikandar Ali Qalati Belem Barbosa Esthela Galvan Vela Feng Liu

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Media refers to means of mass communication such as TV, radio, newspapers, etc. Media, be it any type, reaches the remotest corners of our country. As the literacy rate is increasing, Indians realize the need for more and more information. Newspapers, national and regional, focus on the various aspects of information : political, social, economic, sportive, etc. Radio is also a good source of information and entertainment. It helps a great deal during emergency or some disaster. Like radio, TV, too, is a very powerful media. With a continuous flow of news about business, sports, etc, TV has turned out to be a useful electronic media. Internet is an indispensable tool of our economic sector. In fact, it is required in public and private sectors. The use of computers for teaching is truly innovative which has benefited students of all streams. Whatever the type of media, its duty is to report impartially. But unfortunately media mostly focuses on catchy and exaggerated news to attract readers' or viewers' attention. Some newspapers indulge in the malpractice of " paid-news ". Besides, media highlights violence which has a negative influence on juvenile minds. Perhaps the spirit of competition propels it towards indulgence in malpractices. But the fact remains that media is a powerful and useful medium, if it is used with care and responsibility

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It has been observed that citizens become more sensible and capable to shoulder their responsibility towards the nation and the society because of the media. We get our role models by hearing about the appreciation of their great deeds from the media itself. Over the years, mass media has played an important role in making people understand the meaning of democracy. We also come to know about the strengths and weaknesses of the economy of our country, the population figures, the various problems faced by the nation, achievements of the nation in different sectors, through the prompt and precise reporting of different forms of media. Media plays an important role in building the sense of unity and pride among the people of the nation. In those countries where there are many castes, religions and languages spoken, media has even more tough responsibility of conveying the true news to the citizens. Media makes the citizens aware of their fundamental rights and their duties towards their families, state and the nation. Utility of the mass media in the areas of advertising and marketing is simply great. The effects of mass media are truly everlasting. Some of the changes in media practices make the frontier very different. Lack of interest by the western media in Asian issues is the case among Asian countries when it comes to western-oriented issues. 'The irony is, the more globalisation we have, the more localised the media are’. The concern now is very local and seldom does one see international news splashed on the front pages. Social network sites encourage widespread sharing of personal information among friends, who may update their pages to describe what they are doing multiple times a day. A consequence of this culture of sharing is that today's children do not feel the need to keep details of their lives private as have older generations. On many of these sites, only people youth accept as "friends" are allowed to see their pages, but many youth find pride in collecting as many "friends" as possible, often befriending 1,000 or more and rendering the distinction between friend and acquaintance non-existent. Some nations can influence and control their media greatly. In addition, powerful corporations also have enormous influence on mainstream media. In some places major multinational corporations own media stations and outlets. Often, many media institutions survive on advertising fees, which can lead to the media outlet being influenced by various corporate interests. Other times, the ownership interests may affect what is and is not covered. Stories can end up being biased or omitted so as not to offend advertisers or owners. The ability for citizens to make informed decisions is crucial for a free and functioning democracy but now becomes threatened by such concentration in ownership. Between television and the Internet, the next generation of news consumers has been raised from a young age on an environment of free information, and newspapers are feeling the effects more and more each year. More than ever before, the Internet has been systematically usurping traditional features of newspapers –classified advertising, job listings and movie reviews for instance- and newspapers are losing the additional revenue streams from these declining aspects alongside their declining circulations. Today, websites like have replaced newspaper classified ads and help wanted postings with free online services. Countless other features have found digital reincarnations in recent years. For example, where the previous generation looked for relationships in a newspaper's "Personals" section, the current generation posts their descriptions and searches for friends on MySpace and Facebook. These websites challenge some of the most important revenue sources for newspapers, and this is having serious effects on the business of newspapers, but what newspapers fear the most is not their readers selling possessions on eBay instead of in a classified ad –it is their readers getting their news from the cornucopia of online news sources that have emerged outside of the traditional newsroom hegemony and challenged their central authority. The real crisis of newspapers today is just that loss of authority. While radio and television news each challenged the newspaper in the past, those two institutions were each professional institutions themselves, complete with their own established professional authorities. With the rise of the Internet, however, the newspaper is being challenged with the very essence of an anti-professional authority -a truly postmodern culture. The previous battles between radio, television and newspapers were battles between similarly structured, vertically integrated hegemonies. Like the Cold War, with the superpowers of the US and the USSR competing for supremacy, the challenges faced by newspapers in the past were against enemies that the newsroom could understand and comprehend. In the past, the necessity of newspapers and professional reporters was seemingly inherent. If something happened in one part of the country, it was inconceivable that word of the event would naturally disseminate itself throughout a populace at any appreciable rate. Newspapers and reporters were therefore necessary to serve as the connecting tissue between the occurrences of the day and an interested audience. Information can only travel as fast as the available technology, and throughout the evolution of mass media, from the printed page, to the radio, to the television, there has been a consistent hegemony surrounding the disseminating forces. Radio and television airwaves are highly regulated, for example, and administrative, logistical and financial barriers prevent the general public from achieving anything greater than "viewer" status. As such, the news industry as a whole has been able to maintain their dominance over the public's access to information. So, the media issue here has been understood as “exploration and analysis of evolving and emerging issues in mass media, including economic, regulatory and technological developments and trends.” The media issues diligently encourage thinking critically about the thorny issues inherent in the newspaper, radio, television, and Internet industries. To evaluate the current ethical, political, and economic controversies upon mass media professions and even outside of the mass media should look media issues from the standpoint of media consumers and determine how to evaluate their coverage by the media. This has been done here in book. In this context this book starts a culture of discussion about Media issues in academic and intellectual fields. From which a new kind of concept, definition, understanding etc. can be outlined for recent change and pattern in mass media issues. At last this book itself has seen media issues from different lenses- Some important social issues created or sustained by the mass media, the motivations of media coverage, Media effects on social change and on popular attitudes, and the importance of a critical attitude while consuming media messages.etc. Now book is in your hand, enjoy. Moksha (Dr. Achyut Aryal) Mokshakuti May 2011 E-mail- [email protected] Blog-


yusuf yurdigül , aslı yurdigül

Information Society and Television News

Farasha Bashir

How Media is Harmful to Our Society

Alekha Nayak

2021, Sambodhi (Indological research journal of L. D. I. I)

In the history of communication, one can clearly see how people use communication tools and skills to capture the minds of other people. It's an all-time topic for discussion, how mass media widely used to gain public support for both war and peaceful activity. Politician uses it to get votes, businessman uses it to sell their products, religious leaders attract others to be their follower etc. The intention to attract, motivate, control over others by communication tools may be positive or negative. This article critically analyses and interpreted how the recent communication practice act as a trap to capture individuals. This article discussed how a huge section of our society falling under the different trap of mindset and it is difficult for them to come out of it. This article was based on a critical observation on media practice in Indian subcontinent religion.


gurmath lotos

The role of media in society

Vikas yadav

2020, Higher Education of Social Science

The relationship between media and man is very old, or rather the relationship between media and society is as old as the old society. Over time, new dimensions were added to the media. In the pre-independence era in India, media was used as a weapon of social change. Great writers such as Rajaram Mohan Roy, Jugalkishore Shukla, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Raja Shiv Prasad Starshand, Nikhil Chakraborty, Munshi Premchand and Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay made the journals an important weapon of public awakening whose aim was to remove the discrepancies prevailing in the society. In its early days, journalism was born as a mission in our country. The purpose of which was to make social consciousness more aware. But after 1857, the media became an instrument to raise the voice of nationalist revolution rather than just being reformist. Similarly, after independence, public service broadcasters like All India Radio and Doordarshan had taken up the responsibility of providing information an...

Media and Social Responsibility

Olusegun H A K E E M Adebumiti

2021, University of Medical Sciences, Nigeria

One of the roles of library and information professionals is to communicate the informationthey acquire and organize. Communication has been with mankind since the time of creation. It isan important tool for any society to survive as there will always be need to exchange informationamong people. Baran (2002) defines communication as a process that involves the transmission ofmessage from a sender to the receiver. As the society grows, human beings need to communicateand when there seems to be a hindrance to how far such communication could go, the messagewould then be passed using a medium that could reach a large number of people at the same time.Because such medium could reach diverse, heterogeneous and scattered audience, it is referred toas the mass media. Over the years, the mass media have changed the communication narrativewith respect to information transmission, especially with the advent of the Internet.The forms of communication used in the olden days provides an understanding of theevolution of mass communication or the mass media. Then, the people in authority understand thepower of communication, hence, town criers were used to do the work of the mass media. Theofficer (town crier) was the television on one hand and radio on the other hand. This is because,the town crier combines both audio-visual communication in delivering information to theaudience – the villagers. The voice is enough for them as audio evidence while the person standingin front of them with his gesticulations and facial expressions was enough as pictorial evidence ofhow serious or severe the message being passed is.

Mass Media, Public Relations and Information Communication in the 21st Century


2019, Review Of Re Search

In the day-today life of a busy journalist, publisher, announcer or media owner, it is easy to overlook the essential principles that are at stake when going about one's work. Newsroom or broadcasting studio constraints include deadlines, squeezed budgets, limited electronic and library resources, challenging managers, distribution difficulties and draconian media laws, to say nothing of news subjects who are often wary of journalists, if not overtly hostile. This makes for challenging work surroundings, and it is easy for journalists to lose sight of the big picture. The big picture is that the work of journalists reflects how we as humans work together with each other, and is a measure of how well our society is functioning. The principles of communication that apply to us as individuals are conventional through and apply to how spread-out social organisations, such as the media and government, interact with each other. You can tell a lot about the state of a country's governance, as well as its commitment tosocial equality and financial and social development, by looking at whether it respects its citizens and its media. Though social media began with blogs and has been in existence for more than a decade, it now also take account of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, Internet forums, wikis, podcasts, and video. Social media really began to take hold with the inauguration of the social networking sites MySpace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004. Those sites were created for college students, but some believe social introduce yourself sites became part of the mainstream population during the 2008 presidential campaign


Camille Laville


Khizar Hayat

Role of mass media in changing public opinion is a universal phenomenon. It can be easy to influence the public through mass media in all aspects of life, throughout the world and especially in Pakistan. People in Pakistan are illiterate and unaware about issues and media's positive and negative role in society due to lack of awareness and education. Owner of all types of mass media that operating it and providing news, sports, entertainment, information and many other functions are used the media for their personal benefit and deal it as a business and influencing the people in their desired directions in a negative manner. It is not neglected that media is performing different positive and appreciable role in all sectors of life but due to different propaganda's and negative factors of society, media's role is not remarkable, suitable and reliable. People are not aware about these factors and adopt media as a basic source and take help in decision making, religious guidance, politics awareness and many other relevant purposes of daily life. The present study was conducted in District Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, Pakistan. Offices, streets, markets and open public places were selected for the selection of sample, by using convenient sampling technique in District Mandi Bahauddin. The sample of 120 respondents was taken through convenient sampling. The data were collected by interview schedule and it was analyzed by Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The results explored that Media had both positive and negative role on society. Majority of respondents suggested that we should have much more access to Mass Media for performing a better role in all walks of life. There should be proper rules and regulations and organized check and balance regularly on all types of media that supervised them and restrict the negative aspects and enhance the chances for public and media organization to use media in positive manner. Government departments, NGO's and public should play their role.


Abiodun Fasakin

IJASOS- International E-journal of Advances in Social Sciences

The Media as Both Friend and Enemy of the State

Sibanda Whitney



Razvan-Alexandru Calin

The XXIst century is one dominated by information, speed, communication and efficient relationships among them. The present study wants to be a theoretical approach meant to shape a series of specificity elements that processes as communication acquire in the present mass-media context. The psychological inferences with formative valences, positive and negative coming out from the exposure on mass-media aren't ignored either.

Communication and Mass-media -from information to formation

talha ahmed

Our life will remain incomplete without media. The radio, television, newspaper and internet are some forms through which we get information. The common people believe the news given by the media. So, the media should be very careful before giving any news to the public. Aim of the study to check the public perception about media. The research population consist mostly on the students, because we want to check the perception of public about media and our easily reachable public target is our university and we also target the employed people, self-own businessmen and household’s women. We used the approach simple random sampling. Our research that we conducted on the impact of media in response to our objectives mostly people are agree with our statements and encourage our topic and research.

A Comparative Analysis of Effect of Media on the Public in Pakistan


Election and Media: (Mis)representing Democracy in India

Alhaji M . Javombo , Dr. Ibrahim Seibure

2019, New Media and Mass Communication

Recently the task of the media in conducting elections has been an issue of great concern globally. Its impact has increased immensely and investigators are obliged to agree on the degree and magnitude of the media influence in creating a peaceful election. The aim of this study was to evaluate the responsibility of media in creating a peaceful election, with reference to the 2018 pre and post-election violence in Sierra Leone. The specific objectives were to establish the media accessibility level and the various modes of media coverage; to establish the extent to which media advocated for peace or violence during the 2018 general elections in Sierra Leone. Extensive literatures were analyzed to explain media roles and to develop a foundation for the present research. The research adopted both qualitative and quantitative research methodology where a descriptive research design and random stratified sampling method with a sample size of 388 respondents was used. Primary data was obtained via questionnaires and in-depth interviews analyzed and presented in various forms. The study found out that media performed both conflict escalation and peaceful tasks during the 2018 general elections. Some of the negative media roles include encouraging hate speech, misrepresentation of information, and incitement. Some positive roles include conducting civic education, preaching peace, fair coverage of political rallies, and fair reporting of contentious matters during peace negotiations. The study recommends stringent measures for negative journalism while highlighting the merits of peace journalism.

New Media and Mass Communication

Tilak Wijesundara

2011, Journal of Communicology

Indian Mass Media: A Sociological Analysis

Abdullah Alnajjar

We can surly say that millions of messages in the one minute over the world sent by media in its different outlets and received by the audience in their different orientations, believes, awareness and economics level. This messages delivered to people with various forms and contains, this can be easily recognized, but it is not

Propaganda and contemporary media environment

Tooba Zaidi

Media Term Paper

MGES Journals

Social awareness means that you should know what is socially acceptable from you in society and you should act in that manner. Mass media has a prominent role to play in modern society. It can bring about radical changes and improve social situation as it influences our social, civil, cultural, political, economic and aesthetic outlook. Modernization has converted media into an indispensable feature of human activity. However, factors like age, education, economic condition, personal needs and availability of proper components decide the quantum and frequency of media use. This is evident from the fact that most media centres are located in urban areas. The majority of consumers of media products are also concentrated in and around cities and towns.


2018, Keio Communication Review, No.39

Book Review:Introduction to Media Communication, YAMAKOSHI Shuzo (ed.), Keio University Press, Tokyo, 2017, 393 Pages

Prakash Mahala

Pondicherry Journal of Nursing

Role of Mass Media on Mankind: Time to Rethink

Education is one of the three main functions of media. This function assumes utmost importance when media comes to play the role of watchdog in a mediatized society so that quality of democracy is achieved through protection of human liberties. In 2002, President Pervez Musharraf unlocked the potential of electronic media by allowing private entrepreneurs to operate TV and Radio channels, which led to acceleration of the process of mediatization of politics. For the purpose of the study two main leading newspaper Daily Jang and The News have been selected. The researcher has critically evaluated these two newspapers from March, 2015 to July 2015. This research is critical descriptive in nature leading to an understanding of the value of professional ethics for media to perform function of educating the masses in recognizing their rights. It has found that private media ignore the function of educating the masses and has been engaged in proliferating distorted information in the society so much that masses find themselves in confusion about reality.

Media Ethics for Educating Masses and Mediatization of Society

Hemani Kashikar

This article explores the following questions 1. Who actually owns media in India – Business, Politics, or is media free and unbiased as it was meant to be; 2. How much money is at stake? Where is this money? 3. Where is the problem originating? 4. What is the solution, if any?

Media: From Reporting to Creating News

Marcel Lincényi

The mass media plays a significant liaison role of providing the social reality to recipients of the current society. During such commercial period as of today, however, the mass media prefers the entertaining function, while minimizing, or even eliminating, the informative, canvassing, cultural and educative functions, thus fails to realize its public role for the society. Most media, today, from news to advertising, rely on spectacle, simplification and exaggeration to grab and hold audiences. Much of the current media is beset by idealization and demonization in which media manipulators depict themselves and their allies as heroes and saints, and their opponents or targets as villains, fools and disturbed characters, both to create exciting stories and win battles. What is missing is precisely the information, which would discredit the system and result in reforms that would lock out many of those who now work to maintain the system solely for their own benefit.


The media plays a very constructive role in today’s society. Media play an important role in increasing of public awareness and collect the views, information and attitudes toward certain issue. Media is the most powerful tool of communication in emerging world and increased the awareness and presents the real stage of society. In this decade of Knowledge and awareness there is a huge and grand role of media, it is all around us when we watch on Television, listen to on the radio, read to the books, magazines, and newspapers, every where we want to collect some knowledge and information and a part of this media has to present a very responsible role for our society. Without the media, people in societies would be isolated, not only from the rest of the world, but also for the total formation of creditable world.


Kohinur Alam

Television as Medium of Information for Social Change in Bangladesh: A case study of Dinajpur District

Dr Yashpal D Netragaonkar


Gaurav Singh , Neeti Pandey

Media is the reflection of our society and it depicts what and how society works. Media, either it is printed, electronic or the web is the only medium, which helps in making people informed. It also helps in entertaining the public, educate and make people aware of the current happenings. Media has today become the voice of our society. There is a variety of media platform that has stimulated the thoughts of the young generation and other sections of our society, more eloquently. The research study, aims at analyzing the role of media and its effectiveness at the time of demonetization. The main objectives of the research work are to study the role of media in awarding people about demonetization and its impact. The research will help in studying the nature of media in disseminating information on important issues and how people get informed about issues related to current events. A survey of 300 people was conducted in South City and Eldeco colony, Lucknow. The researchers prepared an interview schedule for the data collection, keeping in mind the role and nature of media, in creating awareness among people. The research study was conducted through convenience sampling. The research work focuses on the behavior and the access pattern of media at the time of demonetization


Ruchi K Jaggi

There is no doubt that dense networks of social communication have persisted in modern India. The long lineage and persistence of vibrant and organic tradition of public reasoning, dissent, debate and oral tradition cuts across classes, castes, religions and communities. The development of news channels as a prominent genre of satellite television can be understood in this context. After the barriers due to state monopoly were lifted, there was a special liberating resonance. News television, for the first time, provided air waves as a mass platform to extend the Indian propensity for argumentation and political debate. The boom in Indian TV news channels is no short of a revolution. The way the content and presentation have diversified in the last decade speaks volumes of how TV news has carved a niche in the audience’s lifestyle and mindspace. The 24x7 news relay has gratified the viewers’ demand and need of being informed and entertained simultaneously. From the non-glamorous days of Doordarshan in India to the more dynamic Zee news in 90s, there has been a noticeable tilt towards sensationalism in Indian news media with the advent of a new Hindi news channel India TV. What started as a ripple effect to boost TRPs has now cascaded into a chain reaction with every new channel using the card to raise its popularity index. However popularity does not necessarily imply credible public perception of either the news content or the news channel. This paper attempts to explore the relationship between news sensationalism and perceived credibility in the minds of the audience. The paper would use a combination of the case study approach and analytical survey to establish the aforementioned relationship. The research would consist of a case study of at least three news channels and a survey on 50 respondents. The objective of the paper is to make a comment on the novae-kultur of sensationalism and exaggeration that has become both the means and end of news presentation on the Indian telescreen. The paper seeks to address the issue of ‘breaking news syndrome’ in the context of viewers’ perception of the same. It would attempt to seek answers about the credibility of news content in the public’s psyche. Keywords: Television, popularity, credibility

Jaggi, Ruchi (2009). Popularity vs. Credibility: An analysis of public perception of sensationalism in Indian television news. Manthan. Vol. 4, Issue (December), ISSN 0974-7141

Farhan Riaz , The Explorer Islamabad

In the world of today, media has turn out to be as necessary as foodstuff and clothing. It has played significant role in amplification of the society. Media is considered as "mirror" of the contemporary society, in fact, it is the media which shapes our lives. In present study, the significant focus was to judge the most effective type of mass media in our daily routine lives. The study was qualitative and quantitative in Nature. It was conducted at Abbas Pura Jhehlum city. A sample of two hundred people was collected through simple random sampling technique. Then data was analyzed through spss (version 14.0). According to findings, it was found that electronic media had great influence in their daily routine life. The findings of the study may benefit the T.V administrations to reschedule their transmission according to viewer’s desire.



The Media and Social Problems

Razia Sultana

" News As Infotainment: A Discourse Analysis of Top Pakistani Cable News Channels "

Interal Res journa Managt Sci Tech


Dr. Saurabh Sharma , Ashutosh Mukund Pandey

2021, Terrorism and National Security

India has seen phenomenal growth in the field of mass media and social media in recent years. In the current scenario, the media's role becomes more critical and significant as information and communication technology development leads to availability and access of multiple news and information sources such as television, the internet, social media, and print media. It is well established that media not only carries the messages alone but also tries to build public perception related to domestic or foreign policy and national security issues through debate and discussions. Media is a source of information on which people rely and trust. Therefore, media is an instrumental tool in the statecraft machinery, which help the state in confidence-building or generating mistrust in the issues related to national security. This study aims to analyse the role played by media in matters related to national security and its behaviour in the situation of crisis related to national security. With the help of case studies, this paper demonstrates how media impact national security.

Impact of Media on National Security: Understanding the Role of Mass Media and Social Media in India


2000, AMIC Symposium on Facilitating Asian Media in …

Media's role in promoting a culture of peace in India.

Jolyon Mitchell

What Society Needs from Media in the Age of Digital Communication

Ashraful Alam

The Mass Media are often referred to as the fourth branch of a government plays an important role in the formation of public awareness providing news and views on public issues of a government. The nature of the media is to report things to the public. Daily reporting (hard news) helps to bring into light different social problems or issues to the public eye. Reporters tend to report to the public all the happenings in the community, in this way the media will be doing problem identification. Media daily or weekly reportage is crucial because when the media begins reporting on the issues of importance to the public the policy makers tend to start listening. Thus, the media provide more information to the public to acquire knowledge on different socio-economic and political problems. For this through the acquiring knowledge, people can be aware of the right and wrong and can avoid the wrong things. So media has a great role in the rising of awareness among the people on different socio-economic problem and this study wants to clarify how the media plays such role in the raising of public awareness.

Proposal: The Role of Media in the Raising of public Awarness

Lucie Tungul (Tunkrova)

2017, The Czech Centre-Right Solutions to the Political Challenges of 2017

The issue we are facing at present is not a lack of information but a lack of reliable information. We are witnessing the growing transformation of Czech society into a post-truth society with a vast plurality of information and opinions but with a certain resignation on actual truth. The media are the primary tool of political communication and have undergone a major change wherein a number of them have been taken over by powerful businessmen. Additional factors affecting the media include the rise of social media and the introduction of new communication strategies and tools, including so-called " infoganda ". The primary current threat seems to come from the pro-Russian influence which is aimed at undermining democratic institutions in the country. Czech right-wing parties have repeatedly warned against the Russian influence and have available several tools to resist it including support for higher media literacy and fact-checking projects and the implementation of a better communication policy.

Media and Political Communication

Iqra Rehman


1973, American Sociological Review

On the Use of the Mass Media for Important Things

Aditi Tyagi

2018, Media Watch

Media Contouring the Societal Functioning:A Study of Indian Democracy

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The media portrays teens in many ways. According to Dugan (2014), negative stereotypes in the media regarding teenagers are currently hurting their prospects of getting a job, according to research currently published. Government employment figured suggest that while employment on the whole is rising, many teens are still having difficulty...

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The public is well-familiar with the term “fake news.” Since the dawn of the mass media, journalists have been reporting false information. Today, media experts define “fake news” as deliberately false stories which aim to disorient readers. When social networks emerged, the media has started using them as convenient public...

Abstract There will be a discussion about the impact that the internet has had on multimedia news delivery in various regards, including the cause and effect. Cause The most apparent cause of the impact that the internet has had on multimedia news delivery, is the virtually cost-free process of preparing...

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Scientific research in news media: a case study of misrepresentation, sensationalism and harmful recommendations

Accurate news media reporting of scientific research is important as most people receive their health information from the media and inaccuracies in media reporting can have adverse health outcomes. We completed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of a journal article, the corresponding press release and the online news reporting of a scientific study. Four themes were identified in the press release that were directly translated to the news reports that contributed to inaccuracies: sensationalism, misrepresentation, clinical recommendations and subjectivity. The pressures on journalists, scientists and their institutions has led to a mutually beneficial relationship between these actors that can prioritise newsworthiness ahead of scientific integrity to the detriment of public health.

1 Introduction

1.1 media and scientific research.

Clear, balanced and accurate representation of scientific research in news media is important. Media both shape and reflect public opinion [Caulfield et al., 2014 ]. The public receive a significant amount of their health information from the media [Caulfield et al., 2014 ; Phillips et al., 1991 ]. Those who receive their health information from the media are not limited to general audiences but include content experts such as healthcare professionals and policy makers [Geller, Bernhardt and Holtzman, 2002 ]. Media coverage of health issues can influence government policy [King, Schneer and White, 2017 ] and impact healthcare decision making [Johnson, 1998 ]. Health information in news media can have a greater impact on public health behaviour than government led and supported public health campaigns [Seale, 2003 ]. Whilst scientific research includes vast fields that encompass many disciplines of investigation in both in the natural (biology, chemistry, physics) and social world (sociology, anthropology, psychology), in this paper, we refer to ‘scientific research’ as a short-hand way of referring to lab-based and clinical research with clear translations and implications for human health.

Research in natural scientific fields is generally considered positivist. Positivist research, like that undertaken in the case that is described in this study, is viewed as researchers working from a paradigm in which objective truths about the world can be developed through rigorous adherence to the scientific method. Scientific research uses rigorous methods to ensure researcher objectivity and minimise bias [O’Connor and Joffe, 2014 ]. However, a subtle shift occurs when scientific research is written about in public domains such as mainstream news media [O’Connor and Joffe, 2014 ]. Given the goals of media communication, the overall complexity, phrasing, language, and the relatability of the science needs to be adapted for a mainstream audience. Researchers’ goal of reporting high quality scientific research in media and the need for scientific research to be comprehensible and newsworthy presents competing priorities. As social science researchers, we view this under-investigated tension as important and worthy of study. Throughout this article we use a social constructivist perspective to investigate and explain the tensions that emerge when scientists communicate the outcomes of positivist science outside of the strict confines of academic publishing. We acknowledge the socially constructed nature of the journal article, the press release and news media reporting and aim to explore the processes, structures and activities that create these different modes of communication.

Since the 1990’s there have been significant changes to news media environments that have impacted both on the way science is communicated to the public and the way consumers of news engage with, and receive information about science. Recent changes include that ownership of media organisations has become more concentrated and media has become more digitized with convergence across platforms [Erdal, 2019 ]. In contemporary society, the public engages with news across multiple platforms using both traditional and digital sources. In 2018, the Pew Research Centre reported that people in the U.S. are most likely to receive their news from television followed by news websites, radio, social media and print newspapers [Shearer, 2018 ]. In 2019, Ofcom reported that people in the United Kingdom (U.K.) are most likely to receive their news from television followed by internet sources, radio and then print newspapers [Ofcom, 2019 ]. In 2019, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reported that Australians are most likely receive their news from online sources followed by television, print and social media [Newman et al., 2019 ]. Important to note is that the sources that people receive their news from are shifting with online content being of increasing importance, especially for younger audiences such as those aged 18–29. In the U.S., for example, most young people report consuming news via social media followed by news websites [Shearer, 2018 ].

In addition to the change in ways that society consume news, there has been a steady decline in employment of ‘traditional’ journalists globally. In Australia around a third of all print journalist positions were lost in the twenty years from 1996 to 2016 [O’Regan and Young, 2019 ]. In the U.S., newsroom employment dropped by 23% from 2008 to 2019 [Walker, 2021 ]. These job losses have coincided with a steady decline in the circulation, readership and advertising revenue of print newspapers [Barthel, 2017 ]. As in many other countries, Australia has also seen a steep decline in specialist science journalists, with general journalists now covering science-related news without necessarily having any science training [Watkins, 2019 ]. In addition, the speed of today’s news production has resulted in the disappearance of scrutinised information and considered reflection [Le Masurier, 2015 ]. The pressure to produce real time news has resulted in greater inaccuracy [Hargreaves, 2003 ] and a dependence on press releases that are written by the public relations professionals employed by universities and research institutes [Lewis et al., 2008 ]. Even if journalists had the time to read journal articles, the majority of those articles remain behind journal paywalls [Butler, 2016 ]. Journalists are also under increasing pressure to generate ‘click bait’ and are therefore driven by headlines that include words such as “breakthrough”. In combination with a lack of science training and time pressures this results in inaccuracies and sensationalist stories being published [Watkins, 2019 ]. Research has shown that inaccurate or exaggerated scientific reporting has, in part, been a result of the information in the press releases [Sumner et al., 2016 ].

Researchers have reported that the desire to create newsworthy stories about science led to a perverse situation where poorer quality research can garner more news coverage than robust research based on a strong priori hypothesis, as the poorer research is more likely to yield surprising and newsworthy results. For example, Selvaraj and colleagues investigated study designs of medical research published in news media and found that newspapers were less likely to cover randomised controlled trials than observational studies and therefore preferentially reported on medical research with weaker study designs [Selvaraj, Borkar and Prasad, 2014 ]. Another example of this is when the poorly designed and subsequently retracted and debunked study led by Andrew Wakefield and published in the Lancet that described an association between the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism was widely published in news media and resulted in a reduced vaccination rate of children for years following the publication of the article [Godlee, Smith and Marcovitch, 2011 ]. Research designed to quantify the effect of this paper has demonstrated that this one study alone has been a primary cause of childhood vaccine scepticism in the U.S. highlighting that media attention of inaccurate scientific research can undermine public trust in vaccines [Motta and Stecula, 2021 ]. This case of the MMR vaccine is an example of widespread and damaging news coverage from a poorly design scientific study. The consequences of communicating scientific research via media when it involves misinformation, like the MMR vaccine, can lead to public misunderstanding, distrust in science and harmful health behaviours [Kata, 2010 ].

Other researchers have highlighted, that unlike for scientists, for the media, communicating the limitations and risks of a study may be of a lower priority. Omission of limitations and risk has been reported in a number of studies, Caulfield and colleagues found that vitamin D when reported on in news media was linked to a variety of health conditions for which there is no definitive scientific evidence in addition to under reporting the risks associated with vitamin supplementation [Caulfield et al., 2014 ]. Cassels and colleagues analysed the representation of five specific drugs in Canadian newspapers with the main findings being that the majority of articles did not mention potential side effects or harms [Cassels et al., 2003 ]. Schwitzer summarised the work of independent health news reviewing organisation ‘’ which evaluated 1,800 health news stories across many U.S. news organisations. Findings showed that 70% of health news articles were deemed unsatisfactory when assessed for attributes such as quantifying potential harms and benefits and reporting on costs [Schwitzer, 2013 ]. Researchers have theorised that the omission of limitations and risks in the reporting of scientific studies in news media is to increase their newsworthiness or conversely, as described by Mellor, reporting on attributes such as limitations is considered a non-news value [Mellor, 2015 ].

In addition to the omission of limitations and risks, writing techniques used in journal articles, press releases and news media to make scientific research more newsworthy include the use spin and positive framing. In the context of scientific research, spin has been described as communicating findings so that the benefits of an intervention seem stronger or more positive than they actually are [Haneef et al., 2015 ]. The motivations to use spin to increase newsworthiness when writing about scientific research in news media have been linked to scientists, public relations specialists and journalists. In an analysis of randomised controlled trials reported in news media, Yavchitz and colleagues reported that the key predictor of ‘spin’ in a press release was the use of ‘spin’ in the conclusion of the abstract of the journal article [Yavchitz et al., 2012 ]. Even before the journal article is published, researchers have found that spin can be present at the beginning of the research process from grant applications in addition to academic journal articles and consequentially any material that is based on these documents [Landhuis, 2016 ]. Others have argued that spin can be introduced in the press release. Sumner and colleagues found that exaggerations and warnings in news reports mirrored those in press releases [Sumner et al., 2016 ]. Others have found fault with the practice of journalists. Taylor and colleagues [Taylor et al., 2015 ] investigated the accuracy of news media coverage of a meta-analysis (a complex statistical method that combines results across multiple studies) investigating the link between pancreatic cancer and processed meat. The authors found that most news reports were derived from secondary sources such as the journal press release and that the quality of the news reports was dependent on the quality of the secondary sources from which the news reports were derived [Taylor et al., 2015 ].

Framing is another technique that, when a news article is produced, will highlight and downplay certain elements of a story to promote a specific predetermined understanding [Entman, 2007 ]. News frames, therefore, can exert power over readers’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviours [Oliver, Raney and Bryant, 2019 ]. Furthermore, sense making theory suggests that readers consume news media portrayed in specific frames, as a short cut to understand complex topics [Scheufele and Lewenstein, 2005 ; Shih, Wijaya and Brossard, 2008 ]. Framing can therefore yield problematic representation and sense making interpretations of science if a study has been inaccurately portrayed for the purpose of newsworthiness for the benefit of media, scientists or both. Given that science needs to be both understandable and relatable to be newsworthy [Fuoco, 2021 ], it makes sense that there are shared motivations of scientists, public relations professionals and journalists that may result in techniques such as spin and framing to make scientific research more newsworthy. However, it also makes sense that, to garner interest in scientific research, research findings may be exaggerated and their implications inflated [Vinkers, Tijdink and Otte, 2015 ] via mechanisms such as spin and framing.

1.2 Science communication theory in the context of news media

The reasons that scientists increasingly prioritise public engagement are complex [Besley and Nisbet, 2013 ]. In addition to publishing in academic journal articles, there is an expectation that academics participate in public engagement [Glynn, 2016 ; Rawat and Meena, 2014 ]. Research from the U.K. has highlighted that the most important reasons for academics to engage with public audiences are to increase funding success by demonstrating research impact and to increase their institution’s competitiveness [Watermeyer and Lewis, 2018 ]. The relationships that exist between scientists and the public can be understood using the theoretical models of science communication [Metcalfe, 2019 ]. Over time, there have been many theoretical models of communication proposed, each based on different assumptions and definitions of communication [Burns, O’Connor and Stocklmayer, 2003 ]. The three main theoretical models of science communication described in academic literature include the deficit, dialogue and participation models [Metcalfe, 2019 ]. These three models underpin the communication strategies within two of the most commonly described paradigms of science communication. The deficit model belongs to the public understanding of science (PUS) paradigm and the dialogue and participation models belong to the public engagement with science and technology (PEST) paradigm [Schäfer, 2009 ]. The deficit model assumes that the public’s lack of understanding of science leads to the public being sceptical about science [Sturgis and Allum, 2004 ] and that public doubts and uncertainty about science are a result of ignorance about science [Gross, 1994 ; Sturgis and Allum, 2004 ]. In contrast to the deficit model, the dialogue and participation models emphasise informing and communicating diverse views and critical reflections about scientific issues to public audiences [Kamenova, 2017 ]. A PUS paradigm can oversimplify information in an attempt to facilitate public understanding. In contrast, the PEST paradigm does not assume the public are deficient in knowledge and thus seeks to communicate critical reflections about science. Evolving from the PEST paradigm, medialisation is a theory that seeks to understand the mutually beneficial relationship between science and the media, specifically; scientists’ awareness of the strategic benefits of direct media engagement and in turn, media’s increased science coverage [Rödder, 2011 ; Vestergård, 2015 ]. These models are idealistic and potentially also unrealistic in a world in which there are clear incentives for scientists, their institutions and news media organisations to generate newsworthy scientific stories that may be achieved through omission of risks and limitations and exaggerations and relevance of research findings.

Despite there being competing interests for newsworthiness, accuracy and relevance of scientific news stories [Cassels et al., 2003 ; Caulfield et al., 2014 ; Haneef et al., 2015 ; Schwitzer, 2013 ], the responsibility for the production of inaccurate reporting is not straightforward. Science communication researchers have attributed misrepresentation of scientific research to a complex relationship between scientists, science communicators and journalists [Caulfield, 2005 ]. Facilitating the dynamic between scientists and journalists are communication specialists who work at universities, research institutes, academic journals and other organisations. These professionals are responsible for the production of press releases and media engagement activities. As research findings are one of the main commodities for research institutions, they have the potential to impact the institution’s financial status and competitive rankings [Autzen and Weitkamp, 2020 ]. Additionally, institutions that publish the most press releases tend to have the highest rankings [Autzen, 2014 ]. There is a clear incentive for institutions to publish high volumes of press releases about research findings that garner as much news coverage as possible. Additionally, exaggerating research findings in press releases is incentivised when the outcome is increased news media coverage of scientific research which has the potential to benefit researchers, their institution and the news media. Furthermore, experts have noted that the reliance on one source of information, such as an institution press release, grants a level of control of the news agenda to the researchers and their institution [Weitkamp and Eidsvaag, 2014 ].

As the scientific research and media landscapes continue to evolve including the increasing pressures on scientists to engage with the public and the demands on journalists to publish newsworthy stories about science with fewer resources, the interactions between these two fields require continual investigation. Additionally, the interdependencies between scientists, science communicators and journalists, including the complexities of communicating positivist lab-based science in a socially constructed environment, there is a need to conduct a detailed examination of the process and consequences of translating scientific research from academic journal articles to press releases to news media reporting.

1.3 This case study

As a significant proportion of news media is derived from press releases [Lewis et al., 2008 ] and the press release impacts on the accuracy of scientific news, [Sumner et al., 2016 ], this study sought to investigate in detail, the communication process in a well-known case of significant misrepresentation of scientific research in news media. This study was published in one of the most highly cited scientific journals worldwide and was the subject of a substantial number of international news reports at the time; many of which had the potential to influence health behaviours. The study was the subject of media scrutiny and featured in ‘SBS News’ which reported it as harmful, “Vitamin B3 claims slammed by obstetricians” [SBS News, 2017 ].

The case at the centre of this paper is a journal article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2017 titled “NAD deficiency, congenital malformations and niacin supplementation” [Shi et al., 2017 ] and the press release published by the researchers’ institution “Historic discovery has the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects globally” [Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, 2017 ]. The journal article described a study that investigated the role of gene variations and niacin supplementation in the prevention of congenital malformations. Of note, mice bred with specific genetic mutations were used to assess the impact of niacin supplementation in the prevention of congenital malformations. The genetic mutations were modelled on genetic mutations found in human families that underwent genetic sequencing where there existed a history of congenital malformations.

While a major component of the study design was investigating the effects of niacin supplementation in mice, many news media reports implied the research had been undertaken in humans with direct health implications for women during pregnancy. As the niacin supplementation component of the study was undertaken in mice, the recommendations about vitamin supplementation in pregnant women were outside the scope of the findings of the research study. Additionally, recommendations made about niacin supplementation had potentially harmful consequences as an excessive consumption of niacin can be harmful to both pregnant women and their babies [The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2017 ].

To explore in detail, the communication process that resulted in this scientific study being misrepresented in news reports, we analysed the journal article, the corresponding press release and all of the subsequent online news reports available through Google News to address the following question: how and where did misrepresentation of the scientific study take place? Additionally, we sought to address one research question that was specifically related to the news reporting: what communication techniques were used in the news reports that resulted in misrepresentation?

We searched Google News for the online news reports for a five-month period from August 2017 to December 2017 using key words such as “niacin”, “vitamin B3”, “Vegemite”, “congenital malformations”, “birth defects”. The press release was issued on the 1 0 th of August and the vast majority of reports were published between 1 0 th and 1 2 th of August 2017. We restricted our search to Google News because it covers a vast range of news media sources [Filloux, 2013 ] and has been used previously in media analysis research as the single source of online news media coverage [Haneef et al., 2015 ; Young Lin and Rosenkrantz, 2017 ]. Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox were used to search for articles on Google News, all with refreshed browsers histories to ensure that all relevant articles were found and searching history did not affect the articles retrieved. After sourcing the journal article from the New England Journal of Medicine website [Shi et al., 2017 ], the press release from the Victor Chang website [Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, 2017 ] and the news media reports from Google News, each document was downloaded and imported into NVivo version 12. After reading each document, a preliminary coding framework was developed by the first author and refined through preliminary analysis and discussions with the other authors. The first author completed the quantitative and qualitative coding. For the quantitative coding, 10% of articles were double coded by another author (LK) and codes and coding definitions were adjusted until agreement reached 80%. For the qualitative coding, 10% of articles were double coded by LK and any disagreements were discussed and resolved and the same logic was applied to the rest of the qualitative coding by the first author.

2.1 Development of coding framework for quantitative content analysis

The coding framework involved developing preliminary codes to guide the analysis. This was based on reviewing the literature on the representation of scientific research in media (including the coding framework used by ‘’ [, 2018 ] and by reading the journal article, press release and a subset of news media reports to tailor the coding to this specific study. An inductive approach followed the development of the preliminary codes and allowed for unexpected themes or the refinement of codes that developed during the analysis.

2.2 Quantitative coding and analysis

The coding framework included the following items: spin, buzz words, framing (positive, negative, balanced), a description of the study design, a description of the study population (mice and humans), description of the niacin supplementation trialled in mice, description of genetic sequencing undertaken in humans, a statement that study findings could not be translated to humans, clinical recommendations about vitamin supplementation, advice to consult a doctor for further information, the use of independent and non-independent expert commentators, the use of a patient narrative, the inclusion of funding information and a link to the journal article. Each of these items was coded either yes or no.

Spin has been defined in multiple ways in academic research [Bero, Chiu and Grundy, 2019 ]. We chose to use the following definition of spin: a way of reporting, for any motive whether intentional or unintentional, that emphasises that the beneficial effect of the intervention is greater than the actual results [Haneef et al., 2015 ]. We chose to use the following definition of buzzwords from the Oxford Dictionary: a word or phrase, often jargon, that is trendy in a particular context or at a specific time [Oxford English Dictionary, 2020 ]. Examples of buzzwords and phrases used in the press release and news media reporting included; ‘historic medical breakthrough’, ‘landmark discovery’, ‘Australia’s greatest ever medical achievements’. Framing can obfuscate objective reporting by highlighting and downplaying certain elements of stories in media which can impact the way readers interpret and relate to information [Birnbrauer, Frohlich and Treise, 2017 ; Entman, 1993 ] and impact readers’ understanding of a story [Caulfield et al., 2014 ]. We chose to analyse whether each article was framed positively, negatively or in a balanced way.

For each article we also recorded whether there was a description of the study design, a description of what component of the research was undertaken in mice and what component was undertaken in humans and whether these specific research findings could be translated to humans. The type of clinical recommendations regarding vitamin supplementation that we analysed were both those that were directly related to this study and those that related to pregnancy in general. We chose to include both types of recommendations as they both have the potential to impact readers’ health behaviour. We also recorded whether there was advice for readers to contact their doctor for more information and health advice about vitamin supplementation during pregnancy. Additionally, we recorded whether each article had independent expert commentators (i.e., those that were not involved with the study but who are experts in the area) or non-dependent expert commentators (those that were involved with the study either as authors or representatives from the researchers’ institute). We counted information about the funding sources as any information about what organisations funded the research. Information about how to access the journal article was coded as ‘yes’ if a link to the article was included, not just mentioning the name of the journal. We also coded whether news reports used a patient narrative. Narratives are important for storytelling and for readers’ understanding of the relevance of an issue.

2.3 Qualitative analysis

The qualitative analysis investigated in more depth, the data coded for the quantitative content analysis. The coded data was further analysed to determine, for example, in what context and for what effect: spin, buzz words and framing were used, whether the omissions or inclusions about the study design, the study population and what components of the research were done in mice and humans resulted in misrepresentation, the extent to which: information about study findings could be translated to humans, clinical recommendations about vitamin supplementation during pregnancy and advice to consult a doctor may contribute to potentially harmful clinical behaviours or outcomes for readers. The impact of independent and non-dependent commentators, patient narratives, funding information and access to the journal article were also reviewed to understand the role these played in relation in the subjectivity of the story.

We identified 60 unique news reports from 48 separate news organisations and websites. The news sources included organisations such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), as well as lesser-known technology-focused and health-related websites such as Gizmodo and Body and Soul. The journal article, the press release and the news reports were coded by the first author. The results of content analysis are presented in four groups of themes that emerged in the qualitative analysis. Table 1 summarises findings from the content analysis. The qualitative analysis is presented as themes and illustrated with quotes.


3.1 Content analysis

3.1.1 theme 1, sensationalism.

The journal article did not include spin in its title, or in the article itself, nor did it include buzz words and presented a balanced frame. The press release used spin in both the headline and body of the press release, included buzz words from experts and introduced positive framing. The majority of news reports included spin in the body of the article (68%) and buzz words (87%). The majority (71%) of news reports were framed positively.

3.1.2 Theme 2, Misrepresentation

The journal article contained a description of the: study design; study population as including both mice and humans; niacin supplementation being undertaken in mice and genetic sequencing being undertake in humans. The press release contained a description of the study design but did not describe the study design as including both mice and humans. It described the niacin supplementation as being undertaken in mice but did not describe the genetic sequencing being undertaken in humans. The majority (87%) of news reports described the study design and most (62%) described the niacin supplementation being undertaken in mice. Around half (57%) of the news reports described the study population as including both mice and humans. A similar proportion (56%) described the genetic sequencing being undertaken in humans.

3.1.3 Theme 3, Clinical recommendations

The journal article did not explicitly state that study findings could not be translated to humans and included clinical recommendations relevant to human health. The press release did not state that findings were not directly transferrable to humans. Clinical recommendations were made about human health and there was no advice for people to seek professional advice if readers wanted more information. In the news reports, while most (60%) stated that the study findings could not be translated to humans, the vast majority (88%) of articles included clinical recommendations about vitamin supplementation. Few news reports (7%) advised readers to consult their doctor for more information.

3.1.4 Theme 4, Subjectivity

The journal article did not contain commentary or patient narratives and there was a disclosure about study funding. The press release included non-independent commentators only (i.e., those with a direct connection to the study), no patient narrative, disclosure of study funding and a link to the journal article. In the news reports, around half (47%) included both independent and non-independent expert commentators. A similar proportion (45%) included non-independent expert commentators only. Seventeen percent of news reports included a patient narrative. The same proportion (17%) included funding information and a quarter (25%) included a link to the journal article.

Table 1 represents the results of the content analysis. The results of the content analysis were grouped into themes that were explored in more detail in the qualitative analysis.

3.2 Qualitative analysis

In the qualitative analysis, we explored each theme in more detail based on further analysis of the coded quantitative data.

3.2.1 Sensationalism

In the translation of information from the journal article to the press release to the news media reporting, the use of spin, buzzwords and positive framing were introduced in the press release and were in many cases, directly translated in news media reports. This direct translation is evident by the direct quoting of slabs of text from the press release to the news reports. In the example below, the extrapolation of the research findings to reduce miscarriages and birth defects in the press release is an example of spin. The word ‘landmark’ is an example of a buzz word and the general positivity without any discussion of limitations, such as the study being undertaken in mice, is an example of positive framing.

“The ramifications are likely to be huge. This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly,” says Professor Dunwoodie. The landmark study found that a deficiency in a vital molecule, known as NAD, can prevent a baby’s organs from developing correctly in the womb. (Historic discovery has the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects globally, Victor Chang press release, August 2017) “The ramifications are likely to be huge,” said the study’s senior researcher Professor Sally Dunwoodie at the Victor Chang Institute… “This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriage and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 2017)

However even with spin, buzzwords and positive framing used in the press release, not all news media reports employed these literary techniques. Some news articles (32%) presented information with no spin and roughly half (47%) of articles had both non-independent and independent expert commentators. The news reports that were framed negatively focused on the potentially harmful health consequences of the misleading information. Below is an excerpt from a news report with negative framing.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the “extraordinary” suggestions by researchers at the Victor Chang Institute were based on a small mouse study and have the potential to do more harm than good. (SBS News, 11 August 2017)

3.2.2 Misrepresentation

The description of the study design in the journal article was clear and included both the human and mouse components of the research. The journal article described the human and mouse components of the research:

We used genomic sequencing to identify potentially pathogenic gene variants in families in which a person had multiple congenital malformations. We tested the function of the variant by using assays of in vitro enzyme activity and by quantifying metabolites in patient plasma. We engineered mouse models with similar variants using the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)–Cas9 system. (NAD deficiency, congenital malformations and niacin supplementation, New England Journal of Medicine 2017)

However, the description of the study design in the press release did not reflect the journal article as the human component of the research was omitted. Additionally, the press release included information about how the study would have direct human health benefits without describing any limitations of extrapolating mouse research to humans. The press release indicates that the findings from mouse research will have human translations:

Scientists at the Victor Chang Institute have discovered simply boosting levels of this nutrient during pregnancy can potentially prevent recurrent miscarriages and birth defects. (Historic discovery has the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects globally, Victor Chang press release, August 2017)

One news report indicated that niacin supplementation may reduce birth defects in humans:

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that deficiency in a key molecule among pregnant women stopped embryos and babies’ organs from developing correctly in the womb, but could be treated by taking the dietary supplement vitamin B3, also known as niacin. (Business Insider, 10 August 2017)

However, despite the implied direct translation of mouse research to humans, more than half of the news media reports included information about both the human and mice components of the research. Additionally, more than half of the news media reports included information about how the research findings cannot be directly translated to humans.

The study was a preclinical trial, and the results will need to be replicated in humans before doctors can recommend vitamin B3 supplements to pregnant women, but the results are certainly promising. (IFL Science, 10 August 2017)

3.2.3 Clinical recommendations

Toward the end of the journal article, there is a “theorisation” made about the use of vitamin supplementation, but it is clearly relating to the specific families who were involved in the genetic sequencing component of the research rather than the population more generally.

We theorize that supplementation with high-dose niacin (140 mg per day, which is 10 times the U.S. recommended daily allowance for women) before and during pregnancy might prevent recurrence of disease in these four families. It is also possible that niacin supplementation may benefit the speech and developmental delays in the surviving patients. (NAD deficiency, congenital malformations and niacin supplementation, New England Journal of Medicine 2017)

However, the information in the press release about vitamin supplementation could be interpreted as relevant to the population more broadly and could be interpreted as immediately applicable to human health.

Just like we now use folate to prevent spina bifida, Professor Dunwoodie’s research suggests that it is probably best for women to start taking vitamin B3 very early on, even before they become pregnant. (Historic discovery has the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects globally, Victor Chang press release, August 2017)

Although most reports made recommendations of some sort about vitamin supplementation, other reports did make it clear that this research study could not be translated directly into recommendations about vitamin supplementation.

Although this is a potentially exciting finding in a very emotive area, it is important to bear in mind that this result is based on studies in mice, and we will need a full research project in women to evaluate the cause and effect of any lack of this vitamin in humans. (Huffington Post U.K., 10 August 2017)

However, like the press release, some news media reports did make recommendations that could have harmful consequences.

The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested giving women niacin supplements before and during pregnancy could significantly cut the risk of miscarriage and congenital defects. (Irish Times, 12 August 2017)

3.2.4 Subjectivity

As with framing, patient narratives can add weight to certain aspects of a story which can resonate with the reader. Patient narratives can be helpful if they assist readers to understand issues, but they can be misleading if they do not accurately represent the facts of a story. In this case study, the use of a patient narrative might assist readers in understanding the types of congenital malformations potentially prevented with niacin supplementation. However, because this research was undertaken in mice and not directly translatable to humans, a patient narrative might be misleading, suggesting to readers that all congenital malformations are prevented via niacin supplementation. Additionally, subjectivity was present in news reports where journalists used comments from non-independent experts. Without independent expert commentary, there is a lack of objectivity and critical reflection about the potential translation of the research findings.

Charlotte Scaife was just one day old when her parents found out the heartbreaking news — the middle part of their baby’s heart hadn’t formed properly and there were multiple holes in her heart… [parent of child (Charlotte) with congenital birth defect] “I wish they’d known about it and the information had been released two years ago or three years ago, and then maybe we wouldn’t be going through this.” (Huffington Post Australia, 11 August 2017)

Despite the press release only including non-independent expert commentators, both non-independent and independent expert commentators were included in almost half of the news media reports, providing evidence that journalists sought additional information to that which was provided in the press release and original journal article.

The press release provided a comment from a non-independent expert:

“We believe that this breakthrough will be one of our country’s greatest medical discoveries. It’s extremely rare to discover the problem and provide a preventive solution at the same time. It’s actually a double breakthrough,” said Professor Graham. (Historic discovery has the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects globally, Victor Chang press release, August 2017)

Some news reports sought independent experts to comment on the study:

Dr Katie Morris, an expert in maternal foetal medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: “While exciting, this discovery cannot be translated into recommendations for pregnant women, who at most may be deficient in vitamin B3. (BBC, 10 August 2017)

4 Discussion

In this study, we used quantitative and qualitative content analysis to investigate the translation of information from a scientific journal article, to the corresponding press release to the subsequent online news reporting of a known case of misrepresentation of scientific research in news media. Specifically, we sought to understand how and where misrepresentation of the scientific study took place and what communication techniques were used by journalists in media reports.

Results showed that sensationalism was present in the press release and was reflected in a large proportion of the news reporting via the use of reporting techniques such as spin, buzz words and positive framing. Misrepresentation of information in the form of inadequate descriptions of the study design and the study populations was translated from the press release to the news reports. In addition, potentially harmful clinical recommendations that featured in the press release were present in a large proportion of the news reports by way of unrealistic extrapolation of findings from mice to humans, a lack of discussion around the limitations of the research and a lack of further advice to consult a doctor for additional information.

The press release included commentary by non-independent experts, and this was reflected in many of the news reports. However, many journalists also sourced independent expert comment. Additionally, given the press release contained spin, buzz words, positive framing, non-independent expert commentators, a brief and inaccurate description of the study design, implied that the study findings in mice could be translated to humans, it is noteworthy that many journalists sought additional information and presented a more balanced account of the research than what was contained in the press release. Therefore, some journalists made deliberate efforts to avoid the misrepresentation that was present in the press release.

These findings highlight that in this case, mechanisms that may result in exaggerations and misrepresentation of scientific research can be directly traced back to the press release. The findings were that the press release and a proportion of the news reports had exaggerated the benefits via the extrapolation of a mouse study to humans and the absence of limitations such as the need for further research in humans and discussion about the potential risks resulting from excessive consumption of vitamin supplementation during pregnancy. This is in line with prior science communication research which has highlighted that scientific studies when written about it media, often exaggerate findings and downplay risks and limitations [Cassels et al., 2003 ; Caulfield et al., 2014 ; Haneef et al., 2015 ; Schwitzer, 2013 ]. Although exaggeration of findings and downplaying limitations and risks are unsurprising, the instances of journalists seeking diverse views and critical reflections of the study from independent sources are noteworthy.

In the context of research findings being a core commodity that impacts an institution’s financial and ranking successes [Autzen and Weitkamp, 2020 ] it is significant that the press release was produced by the scientific researchers’ institution and that this press release is where the exaggerations about findings and lack of information about risks originated. When thinking about the medialisation of science, there is both a clear and mutually beneficial relationship between scientists and the media. As the study findings were exaggerated, the story was able to be framed as a “breakthrough” garnering significant media attention for the potential benefit of the researchers, their institution and the media with the publication of many “click-bait” articles with headlines such as “Vegemite and pregnancy: niacin could prevent miscarriages” (Daily Telegraph, August 2017). As the public look to media to make sense of complex topics [Scheufele and Lewenstein, 2005 ], the framing of this scientific research in the press release and in the news media yielded some potentially harmful sense making interpretations followed by responsive backlash from experts in the field who labelled the researchers suggestions as having “the potential to do more harm than good” [SBS News, 2017 ].

From a theoretical perspective, both the press release and those news reports that used non-independent commentators and omitted key information required to understand the study were in line with a PUS paradigm of science communication. As an example, in some cases the description of the study was oversimplified to the point where it was not possible to understand how the study was conducted or what the implications might be for pregnant women. Despite the omission of information about the research study, specifically the lack of description of the study design and how both mice and humans were used, it is important to note that a proportion of the news media reports did seek information from sources outside of the press release to achieve a more informed, objective and accurate account of the scientific study. For example, some news media reports included both independent and non-dependent commentaries in addition to a detailed explanation of the study design that explained the role of both humans and mice in the study in addition to an explanation about how the study cannot yet be translated to human health and that further research is needed to before advice about niacin supplementation can be made. A portion of journalists wrote news reports in line with PEST theory by providing readers with sufficient and objective information which gave them the opportunity to understand the scientific study and make their own judgements about what the findings could mean. This more investigative and critical work by the journalists added a more objective and contextualised aspect to the story. These journalists were not just informing audiences about the ‘wonders of science’ but communicating diverse views and critical reflections. This is especially remarkable given that journalists have a strong trust in science, their scientific sources and are pressured to adhere to scientific values [Vogler and Schäfer, 2020 ] which is in addition to being under resourced and there being few science journalists with specialised skills to critique a scientific study [Barel-Ben David, Garty and Baram-Tsabari, 2020 ]. However, just as journalists critique politicians and policy, they too can critique scientists and science [Rensberger, 2009 ]. This would be made easier if journalists regained some of the scientific expertise and resourcing that has been lost as newsrooms have declined in overall staff including science journalists [Brüggemann, Lörcher and Walter, 2020 ].

A challenge exists in communicating via news media the relevance to human health of positivist lab based pre-clinical science where the scientific environment is highly controlled, and the research subjects are animals. Pre-clinical research can have direct relevance to human health in the long-term otherwise it would not be undertaken. However, making this relevance obvious without explaining all the caveats and further steps in the research process would likely result in pre-clinical discoveries becoming less newsworthy. Pre-clinical lab-based studies are an essential step in the formulation of evidence and are imperative to building the case for the next phase of research which, in this case study example, could be in humans. Therefore, if pre-clinical lab science is to be reported in news media, there exists a challenge whereby the findings need to be comprehensible and accurate but at the same time, relatable to readers. It is this tension, that could in part, be responsible for some of the misrepresentation of the study in the press release. On one hand, the researchers need to demonstrate ‘real-world’ impact to make their future research possible and therefore, an incentive to minimise the caveats of their research findings to make their research newsworthy. Conversely, demonstrating ‘real-world’ impact could be more difficult if press releases include detailed information about the limitations of the research and the additional research required to determine the relevance of findings to human health. Therefore, a potential interpretation of the motivations of the researchers in the misrepresentation of the findings in the press release, is that they may not have been aware of the dangers of misleading the public that can occur whilst trying to communicate the future potential of their research. In other words, attempting to strike a balance between the conservative language of scientists and the importance of media attention for the goal of generating further research funding and opportunities.

Additionally, the medialisation of science is important amidst the current global pandemic with COVID-19 receiving extensive and ongoing media coverage across the world since January 2020. COVID-19 has seen the world’s population rely on media for the dissemination and sense making of constantly evolving scientific information with news reports about the pandemic having major impacts on readers’ beliefs about its origins and their country’s policy responses and crisis politicisation [Pearman et al., 2021 ]. Some changes to scientific publishing that have ongoing consequences for science journalism that have occurred since January 2020 include: a dramatic increase in the number of published academic journal articles (not just on COVID-19 but on all topics and especially those in health related disciplines) and a significant increase in articles being made available prior to peer review [Else, 2020 ]. Both of these outcomes add more challenges for journalists who are overloaded with information to report on and who are now critiquing research that has not yet been through peer review.

5 Limitations

The use of one case study as a means of investigating a phenomenon provides rich data but means that the results may not be generalisable for understanding where and how misrepresentation of scientific information occurs in communication pathways in all cases. The use of Google News as a single source of online news means that some online news reports about this study may not have been captured. Whilst we developed the coding framework collaboratively and double coded 10% of reports and reached an 80% agreement, there is still some subjectivity to interpretation of the variables that were coded.

6 Conclusion

Science communication, and especially science journalism is about reporting truthfully. It is about going beyond hypotheses, data and breakthroughs and looking at the scientists, their conflicts, their funding and other issues that impact the production of science [Borel, 2015 ]. In an ideal world, there should be no need for scientists, science communicators or science journalists to oversell research findings, exaggerate benefits, omit limitations and risks and fail to describe scientific research in a way that readers can understand. However, there are pressures on scientists to demonstrate the ‘real-world’ impact of their work, on science communicators to generate media attention and on journalists to produce newsworthy content about science. This ‘pressure cocktail’ can result in misrepresentation of science that could lead to harmful health behaviours and public misunderstandings and distrust in science. It is for these reasons that those producing the science, the press releases and the news must work together to communicate truthful and objective science to society. Utilising the PEST paradigm, journalists would synthesise and scrutinise research findings, interview independent experts and present science in more than one simplistic science-dominated side to a story but in a contextualised-scientific way in which readers have enough information to judge the scientific research for themselves. However, given the constraints on journalists in both time and resources, it is unrealistic to expect this to be possible for every scientific study that is reported in news media. Given that it is a reality that journalists will need to rely, at least in part, on press releases, it is imperative that press releases are written with the same level of journalistic integrity as the PEST paradigm idealises.

This case study highlights the implications of what can happen when the translation of science from a journal article to a press release to the news media reporting is confounded by pressures faced by scientists, their institutions and news media. We hypothesise the lack of objectivity in this case to be a result of the pressures on journalists, scientists and their institutions which has led to a mutually beneficial relationship between these actors that can prioritises newsworthiness ahead of scientific objectivity to the detriment of public health. There must be an ongoing priority for scientific information to be represented in media in a way that is helpful, not harmful as entire populations try to make sense of the constantly evolving scientific advice related to COVID-19 and future public health crises. In the current scientific, science communication and journalistic climates, in combination with the way that populations are relying on media for their sense making of COVID-19, we acknowledge the following tensions faced by scientists, science communicators and journalists: not to exaggerate, oversimplify and or omit essential information for the sake of media attention and to equip the audience with the information required to understand a scientific study including contextualised information and independent commentary. This approach is especially important in areas of public mistrust such as those that have serious consequences for public health for example, COVID-19 vaccinations. Scientists, science communicators and journalists have an obligation to frame science as interesting and newsworthy without jeopardizing the truth.

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Georgia is a Ph.D. candidate and Research Assistant at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Georgia’s Ph.D. is in the fields of science communication and public health. E-mail: [email protected] .

Georgina is a Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Georgina has a background in health psychology with a major focus on social epidemiology. She has extensive experience in quantitative research across a broad range of content areas including disability, women and children’s health, public health law, mental health and wellbeing, suicide prevention and violence against women. E-mail: [email protected] .

Louise is a Professor at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Louise is a health sociologist researching lay and expert perceptions of risk and health decision-making, particularly in relation to the use of health technology. She is an expert in qualitative research methodology and the translation of evidence to clinical practice. E-mail: [email protected] .

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