By: Danielle Cruz, Sasha Kamoku, Caitlin Luu & Kelsey Teague
Dr. Sophie Janicke-Bowles – Assistant Professor at Chapman University in the School of Communication with an expertise in media effects; happiness; positive media; psychology; social media; spirituality.
Dr. Sophie H. Janicke-Bowles is an assistant Ptrofessor at the School of Communication and Communication Studies at Chapman University and is a positive media psychologist that looks into how new media promotes and affects the overall well-being of people along with other factors. Dr. Janicke-Bowles attended Eberhard-Karls University in Germany in 2009. The diploma in clinical and media psychology from Eberhard-Karls University, Tuebingen Dr. Janicke-Bowles earned in Germany is the equivalent to a Masters Degree. She then attended Florida State University where she graduated with a Ph.D. in mass communication in 2013. She, and her research team from Universities in Florida State and Penn State, received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation of $1.9M for 3 years. With this grant the research team was able to “explore how people use and are impacted by media content that elicits self-transcendent emotions such as awe, elevation, gratitude and compassion” according to her biography on Chapman University’s website. Her other research contains reasons why society enjoys media entertainment and how morality factors into it.
Social media has been notorious for negative effects, with issues such as cyber bullying and unrealistic body images as examples. Despite these assumptions, there is a likelihood that social media can actually create a positive effect on its users. A study in 2018 was conducted by the School of Communication at Chapman University professors: Sophie Janicke-Bowles, Ava Nayaran, and Anja Seng. The title of the study, “Social Media for Good? A Survey on Millennials ’ Inspirational Social Media Use”, focused on differentiating and comparing effects on individuals with time spent on social media versus content being consumed.
“Social Media for Good?”
According to this study, inspiring social media not only has a pleasant and uplifting vibe, but it also gives people energy and promotes social good. While previous research has demonstrated the value of giving social media users the tools to control their usage and produce positive outcomes (e.g., refrain from social comparison and consume more image-based social media; see also Yang, 2016; Pittman & Reich, 2016), the focus of the current study is on the relevance of the content that is consumed and possibly marketed to the millennial generation. Fostering inspirational material could help social media companies and content producers engage the millennial population and improve their wellness.
The study was conducted from a subject pool at a private university in the western U.S. with a total of 116 participants. The participants were students, with a mean average age of 19.95 years, who were offered extra credit in return for completing an online survey. The figure below from Business Insider displays a survey in 2018 that shows teens’ feelings regarding social media and its effects.
Bhardwaj, P. (n.d.). Half of the teens who think social media has a negative effect on people say it’s because of bullying, rumors, or harmed relationships. Business Insider. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.businessinsider.com/teens-social-media-effects-mostly-negative-pew-research-2018-6
In our interview with Professor Sophie Janicke-Bowles we discussed social media’s beneficial and detrimental attributes in society.
Q: Social media has been notorious for having issues such as cyber bullying and creating unattainable beauty standards for young adolescent women. What are some inspirational materials you have seen in the media that outweigh the negative parts of social media?
A: I have seen several influential individuals on various social media platforms use their voice to speak out on their mental health, weight, spiritual, religious, and professional journeys. Influencers having stories that their following can relate to is a powerful way of communicating the reality behind the posts. While there are influencers that use FaceTune and Photoshop, there are also many that ensure that their followers understand that social media posts do not define and fully capture a person fully.
The figure below displays the results of Janicke-Bowles study done with a Likert scale showing the uses of social media for the student participants.
Social Media for good? A survey on millennials … – Chapman University. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=comm_articles
Q: What are the pros and cons of utilizing social media as a means of forming human connection? How could this improve the wellness of others?
A: Social media as a whole has the power to form human connection in either a beautiful or dangerous way. I would say a pro of social media would be the ability to interact and reach out to people with the touch of a few buttons. The accessibility of social media is incomparable and many people reunite with old friends on social media. People nowadays exchange each other’s handles to better acquaint themselves with each other and sometimes use these platforms to network. These platforms can improve people’s wellness by offering up a chance to build connections, resources, and help to those who are in need. The accessibility to just knowledge and understanding on the platforms is essential to our way of life today.
Q: In your study, you and your colleagues noted that social media use can inspire individuals and result in self-transcendent emotions. What kind of posts have you or your peers mentally noted as inspirational? How and why does this post create a lasting effect on you?
A: Most of the posts I remember are of simple acts of kindness: such as someone giving a homeless individual food or, most recently, a TikTok influencer paying a street vendor in Anaheim to Disneyland. I also enjoy nature videos from different parts of the world. It really puts the world into perspective, and that most people have so much to see. In regards to why the posts created a lasting effect, it is common for people to remember posts that settle with them personally. Personally, I find acts of kindness to those in need memorable because I have known individuals who were in similar situations. Also, world nature videos resonate with me because it is a dream of mine to go absolutely everywhere I can before I die. One thing to note is that many people remember posts related to their location. I remember food and nature hiking spots that are close to my area because I want to one day experience what others have done near me.