Munmun De Choudhury is an associate professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. Dr. De Choudhury is best known for laying the foundation of a new line of research that develops computational techniques towards understanding and improving mental health outcomes, through ethical analysis of social media data. To do this work, she adopts a highly interdisciplinary approach, combining social computing, machine learning, and natural language analysis with insights and theories from the social, behavioral, and health sciences. Dr. De Choudhury has been recognized with the 2023 SIGCHI Societal Impact Award, the 2023 AAAI ICWSM Test-of-Time Award, the 2022 Web Science Trust Test-of-Time Award, the 2021 ACM-W Rising Star Award, the 2019 Complex Systems Society – Junior Scientific Award, over a dozen best paper and honorable mention awards from the ACM and AAAI, and features and coverage in popular press like the New York Times, the NPR, and the BBC. Dr. De Choudhury serves on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Computational Social Science. She is also an appointed member of a committee by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that is examining research on the impact of social media on the wellbeing of young people, and has contributed to the Office of U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory on The Healing Effects of Social Connection.

Talk: Does Social Media Support or Worsen Mental Well-Being? Well, It Depends

Attend this talk via Zoom

Abstract: Social media platforms continue to shape our identities, accruing important roles in our lives as they pertain to connecting with loved ones, finding like-minded peers, or finding an outlet to vent and broadcast small and big happenings around us. Much has been written in the media about these uses, but importantly, about the impacts of social media on a variety of personal and societal outcomes. Is social media good or bad when it comes to mental well-being? This talk will present some critical evidence towards answering this question through a series of interlinked studies. In a first study, a large-scale observational study will situate how social support received online can help to reduce suicidal thoughts. Turning to negative impacts, a second study, using a computational causal approach, will describe the alarming ways experiences of online harassment can aggravate mental health of young people. Beyond these examples, finally, I will discuss how, eventually, in many cases, the answer to this question depends on the context. Specifically, anchoring on two studies that adopt a human-centered mixed methods approach, I will highlight the potential benefits and risks of social media use related to substance misuse disclosures, and to patients' social reintegration efforts following a major psychiatric episode. Ultimately,  online social technologies are here to stay, and I will conclude by reflecting on possible implications that amplify the positive uses and those that seek to mitigate the harmful effects of social media on mental well-being.