Social Media and Health Research Network

Exploring what it means to ‘live healthily’ with social media

Understanding what it means to ‘live healthily’ with social media, now and into the future, is a pressing and complex question.

Underpinned by engaged anthropological scholarship, the aim of this research network is to draw together scholars and stakeholders across disciplines and fields of practice to collaboratively identify the current and future health challenges, as well as benefits, of social media. 

Taking health to be individual and social, cultural, political and environmental, we hope to forge new ways to theorise and understand social media and health at a range of scales.

Network activities focus on interrogating current value systems and future ethical imaginaries at the intersections of offline and online worlds. In so doing, we seek to collaboratively explore the role of social media in shaping current and future social, moral, political and material landscapes without necessarily assuming directionality.

Social media and health research network logo


Health and social media are a much-discussed pairing, and a current focus of global policy and legislative moves. However, there remains an emphasis on linearly and retrospectively identifying the impact of social media on health, taking the former as homogenous and the latter as individualised.

Creating cultures and environments that enable and support ‘living healthily’ with social media now and for future generations necessitates interdisciplinary understandings that disrupt individualised conceptualisations of health and, instead, recognise the connections, complexities, and contexts that shape relationships between social media and social and material worlds.

The theoretical objective of this network, therefore, is to employ health as a conceptual framework through which to engage with the social embeddedness and multi-directionality of human/social media relations in order to interrogate what ‘living healthily’ with social media could, or even should, look like for current and future generations.  

The practical objective of the network is to build on existing scholarship on social media across disciplines and forge new collaborations across academia and a range of stakeholders in order to forge an innovative research agenda into social media. We seek to instigate research collaborations that both explore current challenges and also anticipate, and seek solutions to, future ones. Key to this is also a methodological reflection on how to research relationships between social media and health.

Network members

University of Birmingham:


  • Dr Saheli Datta Burton is a Lecturer in Science Policy (Responsible Research and Innovation) at the Department of Science and Technology Studies (UCL-STS). Saheli is interested in the governance of emerging technologies with a focus on the political-economic and geopolitical shaping of data-driven health and digital technology policy. 
  • Professor Andrew Chadwick is Professor of Political Communication in the Department of Communication and Media at Loughborough University, where he is also director of the Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C). 
  • Rosalind Gill is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis in the Department off Media, Culture and creative Industries at City, University of London. She is author, co-author or editor of 15 books and more than 120 articles. Her latest book is about how diverse young people across the UK experience and manage social media lives. ‘Perfect: Feeling Judged on Social Media’ will be published by Polity in early 2023. 
  • Dr Natalie-Anne Hall is a postdoctoral research associate on the project Everyday Sharing of Misinformation on Private Social Media, at the Online Civic Culture Centre, Loughborough University.
  • Deborah Lupton is SHARP Professor in the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia. Her research is interdisciplinary, spanning sociology, media and cultural studies.
  • Peter Macaulay is a Lecturer in Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of Derby. His main research interests lie within the area of social developmental psychology with a particular focus on perceptions and experiences of cyberbullying, face-to-face bullying, and bystander intervention. Previously, he has also been involved in projects exploring children’s online safety and anti-bullying interventions.
  • Dr Gabrielle Samuel (Gabby) is a sociologist whose main research interests relate to the ethical and social issues associated with data-driven practices in the health arena. Her work has focused on technologies such as AI, social media, and genomics.

Current and Previous Projects

  • Eating Disorders and Body Image Content: Understanding What makes Content Harmful and for Whom. PI: Dr Anna Lavis. Funded through a Philanthropic Donation and Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, 2022-2023.
  • Rapid Research in partnership with Schools to Ensure that the UK Online safety Bill Reflects Children and Young People’s Experiences. PI: Dr Anna Lavis Research England QR Enhancing Research and Knowledge Exchange Funding Programme and the Institute for Mental Health, 2022.
  • Self-Harm and Suicide, Content: Understanding What makes Content Harmful and for Whom. PI: Dr Anna Lavis. Funded by Samaritans, 2021-2022.
  • Self-Harm and Suicide Content on Social Media: A Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19. PI: Dr Anna Lavis. Funded by Samaritans, 2020.
  • Going Viral: A Real-Time Ethnographic Exploration of Coronavirus-Related Discussions on Social Media. PI: Dr Anna Lavis. Funded by University of Birmingham, 2020-2022.
  • Virtual Scars: Exploring the Ethics of Care on Social Media through Interactions Around Self-Injury. PI: Dr Anna Lavis. Funded by Wellcome Trust, 2018-2019.

Contact us

Please contact Dr Anna Lavis:


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