Most of the research seems to focus on facebook (while twitter is the preferred social media for text analysis), which brings with it a tunnel view that doesn’t really incorporate the affordances and features of other, especially anonymous or more ephemeral social media platforms. I had surprising difficulties finding papers about the exact design features/elements and their impact.
Beside trying to find research on features, I focused on mental health in young people, although I am at the moment re-thinking whether that is still a direction worth pursuing.
Danah Boyd’s It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens paints a comprehensive picture of how young people make sense of social media, and especially (what with being written, as I understood it, in an effort to make teachers, parents, policymakers and other people who hold power over adolescents understand their motivations) debunks common myths that adults and persons that don’t use social media may believe, while pointing out the real dangers and issues.
Calvo and Peters’ foundational Positive Computing is a great guide not just to aforementioned science of wellbeing and its connection to technology, but also offers methods and practical guidance.
The Needs-Affordances-Features Model is an amazing summary of the affordances (if not specific feature design) of different social media platforms and what psychological needs (specifically autonomy, relatedness, competence, having a place, and self-identity) they fulfill. Not that much about specific design elements, though.
Addictive Features of Social Media/Messenger Platforms and Freemium Games against the Background of Psychological and Economic Theories is a short and really helpful just-what-I-was-looking-for and took-me-a-while-to-find-so-thank-fuck-for-that summary of why apps are made addictive (data/attention economy), and how exactly this works in terms of features (endless scrolling + flow, endowment/mere exposure effect, social pressure, custom content, social comparison + reward, Zeigarnik/Ovsiankina-Effect). AKA: All the knowledge companies keep to themselves and perfect through methods like FB’s notorious A/B experiments. Mental note here to look up more by C. Montag.
I found a cool paper about addiction to social media and attachment style, which explains why certain unhealthy attachment styles make people more prone to become addicted to social media. Any issues you have socially and in relationships, obviously, blow up and become scaled or different issues in mediated interactions and relationships.
Underrepresented youth, on a positive note, while they unsurprisingly see social media as not designed for them (is anything designed for them, really?), use it among other things to bypass mainstream news, connect with their cultures and find community.
The same came up in a chapter in Kishonna L. Gray’s Intersectional Tech – Black Users in Digital Gaming (which I devoured on an unrelated literary pilgrimage to critical game studies). She describes how queer black women created safe spaces in Xbox live, within and yet apart from the hostile overall environment of online gaming (and real life).
The relationship between facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength establishes the connection between stronger ties and greater wellbeing impact, as well as highlighting the differences between smaller interactions and more time-consuming and content-heavy interactions, both of which can impact wellbeing in different ways and intensities.
I also found a great analysis of the way users perceive ephemeral social interaction on snapchat as a low-pressure, high-attention intimate messaging platform.