First Advisor

Brianne Suldovsky

Date of Award

Spring 6-18-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication and University Honors






Social media and society, Social media -- Psychological aspects, Fear, Anxiety, Pessimism, Social media and television




Born from cultivation theory, which suggests that media has a profound effect on viewers' perceptions of the world around them, Mean World Syndrome is a psychosocial phenomenon that describes increased levels of fear, anxiety, and pessimism, as well as an overall perception of the world as "meaner" than it actually is, as a result of heavy viewership of violence-related mass media. Mean World Syndrome has primarily been associated with television consumption, but a major societal shift towards consumption of social media instead of television over the last two decades necessitates investigation into how social media affects its users. Through an online survey of social media users (and non-users), this study investigates if increased social media usage is in any way related to the three pillars of Mean World Syndrome (fear, anxiety, and pessimism), with the intent to find out if Mean World Syndrome as a phenomenon can be extrapolated from its original application of television consumption to this new frontier of social media. This research found significant positive correlations between increased social media usage and increased fear, anxiety, and pessimism. Post-hoc analyses were also conducted to elucidate how social media, being such a functionally different medium from television, may differ from television in how Mean World Syndrome manifests.


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An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in University Honors and Communication & Psychology.

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