Fear and loathing in social media : Social media addiction “epidemic” as a moral panic

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202007093689
Title: Fear and loathing in social media : Social media addiction “epidemic” as a moral panic
Author: Lundahl, Outi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research (2010-2017)
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202007093689
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/317539
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Viestintä
Media and Communication Studies
Medier och kommunikation
Abstract: Moral panics are instances of public anxiety in response to a problem regarded as threatening the moral standards of society. Extant literature on moral panics has then tended to focus on individual deviants. In contrast, this study focuses on a moral panic where the morally objectionable actor is an entire industry which is portrayed as having intentionally manufactured the societal problem for their own personal gain. Thus, this study investigates how does the media create a moral panic around an industry? The context of this study is social media addiction. In order to answer this research question, a longitudinal, mixed methods media analysis of British newspapers in 2015–2019 is conducted. The constructivist media frame analysis then shows that while previously social media addiction was seen as an individual disorder, media then framed social media addiction as a manufactured epidemic. Thus, the study shows that a moral panic around social media addiction was created and that there were increased calls for regulation of the industry. However, it also that as these calls were seen as being responded to by the government, the moral panic dissipated. In addition, an automated text mining analysis also shows that, contrary to extant literature, the media framing does not rely on increasingly emotional rhetoric. The study then firstly contributes to extant literature on moral panics by showing how an industry, instead of groups of individuals, can become seen as the “folk devil”. This happens through powerful metaphors which are formed around social media companies. This can have considerable implications for the industry as even if this particular moral panic around social media addiction may remain short-lived, it may prove to be only one wave in the so-called spiral of signification, in other words, the increasing anxiety towards the social media industry. Secondly, the study also contributes to the understanding of emotions in a moral panic by showing that moral panics do not necessitate increased emotional rhetoric in the media framing. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the recent public policy measures in the UK.
Subject: social media
addiction
moral panic
media
regulation
emotion
Subject (yso): sosiaalinen media
addiktio
moraalipaniikki
media
säännöstely
emootio


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