Among young adults, stress triggers social media use, especially as a coping strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wolfers & Utz, 2022). Similarly, video games offer a way for players to engage in escapism to cope with stressors (Prinsen & Schofield, 2021). Increased use of virtual media continues despite social distancing orders being largely lifted; while the risks and potential negative impact of social media on mental health remain uncertain (Orben & Przybylski, 2019). The current study examined the use of virtual media and virtual gaming as coping mechanisms among traditional-age undergraduate students. Undergraduate participants (N=310) attending a large metropolitan university in the southeast completed a comprehensive online questionnaire that included perceptions of their mental health and the use of coping strategies during the pandemic. Overall, participants reported higher instances of stress throughout the duration of the pandemic and lower perceptions of their mental health. Participants reported much higher usage of social media in their everyday lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Further, participants overwhelmingly identified social media usage as a coping strategy. In fact, social media usage was the most prevalent coping strategy amongst undergraduate participants, and tendencies toward escapism and persona creation in response to stress were unveiled through participant responses. Far less reported use of virtual gaming as a copying strategy even when controlling for gender. Despite the negative effects of social media usage reported throughout psychological literature, current undergraduate students see it as an aid for their stressors rather than a source of stress.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Hubertz, Martha


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Clinical Psychology



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Psychology Commons