Faculty Sponsor

Jennifer Prough


Christ College


Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Humanities

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


This interdisciplinary research paper examines how social media interactions impact human ability to effectively live together in a globalized society, including the consequences on mental health. Our contemporary social world is increasingly connected online with evolving technology, allowing us to build networks and improve communicative efficiency, yet at the cost of losing direct interpersonal experiences. Using philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism as a framework for analysis, this paper extends his call for intercultural conversations to social media. Appiah proposes cosmopolitanism as an ethic for living amongst strangers, arguing that we have an obligation to others beyond kith and kin, and we have to respect the value of particular human lives. Social media disrupts this cosmopolitan ethic through diminished encounters and non-inclusive narratives online. Examples of disagreements about women’s reproductive rights and climate change on Twitter illustrate how social media encounters are divisive, exclusive, polarized, and do not foster cosmopolitan understanding. Moreover, media “connectivity” can harm mental health, contributing to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, as we derive our identity from and socially compare in virtual interactions. Social media encounters provide a challenge to engaging productively with others. Though, social media institutions have been associated with positive engagement and education, so for it to support cosmopolitan understanding we need to find creative ways to tap into these efforts and have everyone’s voices heard. By emphasizing our shared humanity while encountering others through conversation on social media, we can overcome the divisions—while respecting and understanding our differences.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

My name is Payton Hodson, and I am a Junior Undergraduate student double-majoring in Psychology and Spanish, am a Christ College Scholar, and am on the Division I Women’s Golf team. Living in a technologically dominant world today, I became interested in this topic to research and evaluate whether social media usage can foster sincere interpersonal interactions as a medium for communication, and whether it has detrimental effects on individual mental health.