Social Media & Austerity


Mental health communities are feeling the full extent of current austerity measures due to the redistribution of social care services and significant closure of physical community spaces. This participatory action research seeks to address the experiences of a vulnerable community in a culture of austerity and will explore the capacity of service users to enhance their mental health by engaging with peer-support practices through social media.

This project works with the mental health charity Mind to investigate the impact of the charity’s recently launched social media site – Elefriends ( – which is dedicated to peer-support in mental health communities. Analysing online posts, as well as interviews with users, the project explores exactly what peer-support means for service users using Elefriends. The aim is to develop a working definition of ‘online peer-support’ to be developed from one of the first major mental health social media initiatives in the UK.

The project connects Network+ with other digital technology and mental health projects (e.g. Innovation Labs), and engages in policy and ‘widening use’ discussions with local (East London) NHS Trusts and third sector organizations (e.g. Mind). Through focusing on mental health communities, it will extend knowledge of changing cultural and community social media practices (‘Reaching Out Online’ and ‘Trajectories to Community Engagement projects), as well as broader issues of digital literacy (‘Literacy, Expertise & Knowledge’) and benefits to mental health (‘Everyday Growing Cultures’). The project will feed into future Network+ projects focusing on related areas of austerity, resilience, digital technology, vulnerable communities and social isolation.


Key Participants:

Dr Ian Tucker – PI: Ian has considerable experience with researching community mental health, and digital technologies. He is a core Network+ member, and an expert member of the EU COST Action Living in Surveillance Societies (LiSS). He was PI on a Mental Health Foundation funded project investigating the impact of life transitions on older mental health service users, and has conducted research exploring the relationships between space and place, identity and mental distress. He has managed RAs and has high impact journal publications in the areas of community mental health, space and technologies. He has existing links with voluntary sector mental health charities (Mind), and has managed research that includes mental health service users as partners in the project (Service User Research).

Relevant Example Publications:

Tucker, I. M., & Goodings, L. ‘Mediation and digital intensities: Topology, psychology and social media, Social Science Information, in press

Tucker, I. M. (2010) ‘Mental health service user territories: Enacting ‘safe spaces’ in the community’, Health: An International Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 14(4), 434-448


Dr Lewis Goodings – CI: Lewis has several years experience researching social media, which began with his PhD work on MySpace and its effects on identity, embodiment and space. He has worked on an EU-funded project (Grundtvig – European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme) looking at the oral histories of older users of social media and the changing status of memorial practices. More recently he has been working on a project with Tucker entitled ‘Transformative publics: Social media and the production of bodies online’ (Roehampton-funded) which looked at the experience of unwanted body-technical assemblages in social media. His interests focus on identifying the role of digital media in the production of communities defined not in terms of essential properties (e.g. shape or size) but by the way users feel connected, and how such feelings are dependent on the specific aspects of the online environment.

Relevant Example Publications:

Goodings, L. & Tucker, I. M. ‘Social media and the co-production of bodies online: Bergson, Serres and Facebook Timeline, Media, Culture & Society, 36 (1), 36-51.

Goodings, L. (2012). ‘Understanding Social Network Sites: Lessons from MySpace’. Visual Communication. 11(4), 485-510.


Seaneen Molloy-Vaughan: Seaneen has a background in mental health and online communications, and joined Mind and the Elefriends team in March 2013. Her responsibilities include site moderation and community engagement – responding to high-risk content, resolving bugs and engaging Elefriends in conversations around mental health. Seaneen has coordinated a number of offline workshops designed to help community members improve their online communication skills and is able to support participants who may be struggling with their mental health.


Brett Raymond-Barker: Brett is a Research Assistant, Visiting Lecturer and PhD student at Roehampton University. He has previously worked with Goodings and Tucker on research exploring the use of social media and the challenges when facing one’s ‘online body’. He has experience conducting interviews and focus groups for qualitative research projects and would be able to meet the needs of the current project. Brett is also involved in research projects looking to improve the student performance system at Roehampton and he has a wider research interest in emotions in moral dilemmas.

Final Report