Date of Graduation

Summer 8-1-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

College/School

School of Nursing and Health Professions

Program

Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Brent Ferm, PhD

Second Advisor

David Martinez, PhD

Third Advisor

J. Garrett Walker, PhD

Abstract

Social networking sites (SNS) allow for rapid information sharing in online spaces. Research in the general public suggests that extended SNS use corresponds with poor mental health outcomes such as depression and anxiety. Research regarding SNS use in LGBT populations seems to promote interpersonal connectedness. While such studies tend to include gender non-conforming persons (GNC), this group often represents a minimal proportion of participants. This study sought to explore SNS and mental health in persons identifying as GNC. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data to develop a substantive theory regarding SNS and mental health in this demographic. Eight participants were interviewed and each provided feedback regarding their SNS use, mental health, and gender identity. Results indicated that participants largely used SNS for social interaction, which afforded them the opportunity to connect to peers without geographic limitations and with a chosen degree of privacy and anonymity. It also found that when SNS are used in a connection-promoting manner and the user has clearly developed SNS preferences, GNC users will have a larger social support network and increased psychosocial wellbeing. Conversely, passive use such as viewing images and exposure to cyberbullying are associated with upward social comparisons and negative mental health outcomes. The results indicate a clear necessity for additional studies that further expand knowledge and refine clinical competencies while considering SNS use and its relationship to mental health in GNC persons.

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