A qualitative study on negative experiences of social media use and harm reduction strategies among youths in a multi-ethnic Asian society

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PloS one








PURPOSE: This study aimed to expand and inform the emerging body of research on the negative experiences of social media use among youths and how youths deal with them, in an Asian setting, using a qualitative approach. METHODS: Data were collected using 11 focus group discussions (FGDs) and 25 semi-structured interviews (SIs) among youths aged 15 to 24 years residing in Singapore who were recruited via purposive sampling. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: The salient negative effects mentioned by participants include the development of negative reactions and feelings from upward comparisons with others (e.g., others' achievements and lifestyle), receiving hurtful comments, exposure to controversial content (e.g., political events and social movements), as well as the perpetuation of negative feelings, behaviours, and sentiments (e.g., rumination, unhealthy eating behaviour, and self-harm). Participants also described strategies which they have employed or deemed to be useful in mitigating the negative effects of social media use. These include filtering content and users, taking breaks from social media, cognitive reframing, and self-affirmation, where they identify and change stress-inducing patterns of thinking by setting realistic social, physical, and lifestyle expectations for themselves, and focusing on self-development. CONCLUSION: The current results highlight that while youths experience negative effects of social media use, they have high media literacy and have employed strategies that appear to mitigate the negative effects of social media use. The findings can inform various stakeholders involved in helping youths navigate the harms of social media use or provide directions for intervention studies aimed at reducing the harms of social media use.


Exercise and Nutrition Sciences