Preview: Is Social Media Making Us Sick?

Is Social Media Making Us Sick?
Monday, March 11 | 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Sheraton Austin – Capitol View North
701 East 11th St

Bekah Lockner, manager of social marketing at AbelsonTaylor
Bekah Lockner, manager of social marketing at AbelsonTaylor

As evidenced by increasing research, observations and personal experiences alike, social media is increasingly impacting the lives of users who engage in it on a regular basis. The question is, is that impact positive or negative?

While many can agree that social media has improved many facets of our daily interactions, others propose the argument that digital forms of communication are making our lives worse. We can all be generally swayed in one direction or another, but there is still an absence of concrete evidence that indicates which side holds the truth.

Bekah Lockner, manager of social marketing at healthcare advertising agency AbelsonTaylor, will use her SXSW Interactive panel to start chipping away at the iceberg that is social media’s impact on health. When Lockner first began working toward her degrees at UT, classes that catered to her current career were far from available.

“When I was in school, social media didn’t exist. My degrees have nothing to do with that because there was no Facebook, no MySpace,” said Lockner. “I majored in communication studies and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do PR, and then I actually worked in PR and realized I did not want to do traditional PR. I went back to school and I got my master’s in advertising.”

“Eventually, I was at Razorfish and we started working on one of the first branded MySpace pages for one of our clients,” Lockner said. “That was my first [social media] project and I haven’t really looked back.”

Healthcare Ad Agency AbelsonTaylor
Healthcare Ad Agency AbelsonTaylor

Aside from social media, Lockner has also had a particular interest in health. The two together became her career focus.

“I think [social media’s affect on health] has always been in the back of my head,” Lockner said. “It’s something I’ve always thought about.”

Lockner proposed her panel, which is based on research conducted by AbelsonTaylor, to introduce an additional perspective on social media’s impact on health. According to Lockner, there isn’t much diversity in this area of study yet.

“About a year ago, I started seeing articles about social media’s impact on our health. Not necessarily physical, but also emotional and mental health,” Lockner said. “But they’re all just university studies, which is a hard time to judge someone’s mental health. There’s homesickness, adjusting to a new place, and other factors that can affect someone’s mental health at that stage. So all these thoughts on social media’s impact are based on university studies.”

“Or research differs because of the sampling. We have quotas for each of the age groups, socioeconomic status, gender. We’re making sure our sample reflects the population,” Lockner said.

With research results pending, Lockner is still considering social media’s ultimate ability of negative impact.

“I think it affects the people that are already more anxious, lonely and depressed, but I’m not convinced that social media is making us sick,” Lockner said. “At least not yet.”

Lockner looks forward to educating others with her panel, and being educated by others presenting at the festival.

“Of course, I’m excited to present, but I’m much more excited to learn from everyone else,” Lockner said. “It’s a great learning experience.”