Although youth increasingly communicate with peers online, we know little about how private online channels play a role in providing a supportive environment for youth. To fill this gap, we asked youth to donate their Instagram Direct Messages and filtered them by the phrase "help me." From this query, we analyzed 82 conversations comprised of 336,760 messages that 42 participants donated. These threads often began as casual conversations among friends or lovers they met offline or online. The conversations evolved into sharing negative experiences about everyday stress (e.g., school, dating) to severe mental health disclosures (e.g., suicide). Disclosures were usually reciprocated with relatable experiences and positive peer support. We also discovered unsupport as a theme, where conversation members denied giving support, a unique finding in the online social support literature. We discuss the role of social media-based private channels and their implications for design in supporting youth’s mental health.
This paper uses online dating as a context to explore futures for sexual consent technology: systems that mediate how partners exchange consent in order to prevent nonconsensual sex. Motivated by evidence that sexual consent is already mediated by computers in ways that challenge perceptions of sexual agency, we present a participatory design study in the United States with 17 women and LGBTQ+ stakeholders (demographics at disproportionate risk of sexual violence). Contrary to consent apps that are used right before sex to record irrevocable consent, participants envisioned alternative consent technology being used across online and offline interaction to normalize candid dialogue about sexual expectations and informed verbal consent throughout sex. Findings demonstrate opportunity for dating apps and associated technologies to foster voluntary adoption of affirmative consent, which has been widely advocated in public health for sexual violence prevention yet historically under-adopted by the general public. Content warning: graphic descriptions of sexual activity.
Today's youth face many mental health challenges and are increasingly represented in psychiatric hospitalizations. Scholars have sought to understand social media's role in mental health issues, but limited work has explored TikTok—the video-centric social media platform that is popular with youth—and people's connections around psychiatric hospitalization experiences. In this study, we used qualitative content analysis to examine a random sample of 140 TikTok posts related to psychiatric hospitalization. We found that members of this population frequently utilize humor to create and maintain a positive and supportive community with each other. We also describe how TikTok’s design affords these interactions among community members, and conclude with a series of provocations for researchers and designers working at the intersections of social media and mental illness. We hope our study provides insights for how to further support rather than just censor youth in using creative outlets to connect with each other.
Although teenagers engage with Personal Informatics tools to track their health and fitness, many do so without adequate guidance, and they express concerns regarding the potential for these practices to bring harm. Further research is needed to understand how we might leverage resources beyond these tools to support young self-trackers. We worked with 44 teenagers (aged 13-18 years) in the United Kingdom in two series of online workshops to co-design a reimagined ‘how might you’ guide to promote lifelong, healthy behaviors with self-tracking tools. Our findings emphasize the importance of flexible resources that can support teens’ self-tracking practices. For example, guidance on asking critical questions can be particularly valuable in the preparation and reflection stages of self-tracking. To better design teens’ interactions with health technologies, particularly Personal Informatics tools, we must think critically about how we design the broader information ecosystems within which these tools reside.
Public stigma on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) affects the physical and psychological wellbeing of those living with the condition in a severe way. There is work around the design of technology for medication adherence and HIV treatment. Yet, there is still a lack of empirical research that investigates how people could cope with stigma more effectively using technology. Thus, we obtained data from co-design workshops conducted remotely from the U.S. with 25 people living with HIV. Our findings foreground key needs and values via the discussion of features and functionality of speculative co-designed technologies that would allow people to leverage key stigma coping strategies. Based on these insights, we forward design implications for social media, which is the most common type of technology that people living with HIV currently use to cope with public stigma.
Social media platforms exacerbate trauma, and many users experience various forms of trauma unique to them (e.g., doxxing and swatting). Trauma is the psychological and physical response to experiencing a deeply disturbing event. Platforms' failures to address trauma threaten users' well-being globally, especially amongst minoritized groups. Platform policies also expose moderators and designers to trauma through content they must engage with as part of their jobs (e.g., child sexual abuse). We consider how a trauma-informed approach might help address or decrease the likelihood of (re)experiencing trauma online. A trauma-informed approach to social media recognizes that everyone likely has a trauma history and that trauma is experienced at the individual, secondary, collective, and cultural levels. This paper proceeds by detailing trauma and its impacts. We then describe how the six trauma-informed principles can be applied to social media design, content moderation, and companies. We conclude by offering recommendations that balance platform responsibility and accountability with well-being and healing for all.