“One’s Social Skills Go to the Dogs”
The Potential of Social Media to Elicit Information on Socially Withdrawn Youths in Finland
Keywords:social media, social work, social withdrawal, youth, Finland
Youths who are socially isolated are largely inaccessible to social work professionals; nevertheless, most are active on social media. Feeling they have been let down by society, many such youths seek comfort in imageboards, where the idea of being anti-social is cherished and where even extremism and hate speech is tolerated. This study relies on a thematic analysis of 323 imageboard messages to identify the challenges socially withdrawn youths perceive as excluding them from society. We use the capability approach as our viewpoint, emphasizing the youths’ actual capabilities to join in, as opposed to the opportunities seemingly provided by society. Our results resonate with the earlier research: Many members of the group labeled ‘withdrawn youth’ suffer from neuropsychological and mental health problems, fear social situations, experience a sense of shame and failure, and harbor bitterness toward society. They consider issues including unsuitable services, the onerous demands imposed by working life, and the hard values prevalent in society to restrict their opportunities to participate in that society and undermine their self-respect. Fear and negative experiences prevent socially withdrawn people from approaching social workers. Accordingly, we recommend social services keep an open mind on using digital options to reach people beyond the conventional service system.
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