Young People’s Agency in Social Media

"With this project, we develop an explanatory, comprehensive and integrated evidence-based model depicting the complex impacts, both the bright and dark sides, of social media use on young people’s agency, well-being and the feeling of security from the short and long-term perspective."

This research project answers the need to understand why and how some young people obtain greater benefit from social media use, while others seem to be impacted more negatively. There is also a need for deeper understanding of young people’s agency in social media in different domains and life spheres. We focus on young people as actors in social media. The main objective of this project is to examine how young people act in social media environments both as influencers and targets of influence, focusing on both the good and bad effects –bright and dark sides- of their agency. We will study how the agency in social media is related to young people’s identities, world-views, emotions, well-being, and feelings of safety and security. The target group is adolescents aged 13-19, since they are the most active users of social media at an important life stage in the identity formation.

Our Project Team

#Agents is a multidisciplinary consortium study building on an extensive expertise in social sciences (including youth studies and health informatics), psychology, education, corporate communication, journalism, and military science (information warfare).

  • University of Jyväskylä,
    • Department of Social Science and Philosophy, PI Terhi-Anna Wilska (head PI).
    • Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics, PI Vilma Luoma-aho.
  • University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences, PI Katariina Salmela-Aro.
  • National Defence University, Dept of Military Pedagogy and Leadership, PI Aki-Mauri Huhtinen.

In the University of Helsinki (workpackage 3), the researchers of education and psychology will address questions related to the dynamic reciprocal relations between different types of intensive social-media engagement and adolescents agency and identity formation, academic motivation and youth well-being– a double-edged sword. How youth exercise agency through practices of social-media engagement and how these practices develop their agency in return? How youth identity formation is related to daily social-media engagement, daily emotions and later well-being and how social-media in turn shapes identity? The researches will evaluate these challenges in relation to media education, media literacy, self- and co-regulation as well as equality (i.e. digital divides influenced by SES, gender, age, algorithmic enclaves, competencies). Building on existing research and ongoing projects (Mind the Gap, GAPS) on digitalization and young people’s well-being, WP3 utilizes longitudinal surveys as well as intensive experience sampling data including both self-report as well as objective mobile assisted data collection.

Inquiries about the project?

Twitter: #someagents

Contact: PI Katariina Salmela-Aro, katariina.salmela-aro@helsinki.fi