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Brandon Dolly to present March 5 at virtual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol

ISSUED: 23 February 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A secondary education major will represent Shepherd University at the 18th annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol (URDC). Brandon Dolly of Kearneysville will present his research titled “Nova Symbiosis: Evolutionary Psychology and Social Media Dependency,” which explores how social media impacts the brain’s development. The event will take place virtually on Friday, March 5.

“Social media, especially in my generation, is a growing concern as so many of my peers waste hours of their days scrolling through social media feeds,” Dolly said. “One of the biggest concerns with social media is how it alters the psychology of the brain, especially in individual appearance. Being one of the first generation to have grown up with social media, I found this topic to be rather personal.”

Mentored by Dr. Dawne Raines Burke, professor of education, Dolly uses research that connects social media usage to theoretical ideologies such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Self-Actualization, a theory in psychology of a five-tier model of human needs consisting of physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

“I have concluded that social media applications lead to self-esteem issues with things such as body image and self-worth, as well as eating disorders and the growing ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ issue, where individuals are permanently altering their appearance to look more like what camera filters show,” Dolly said. “There are generations of people who have become so consumed by their appearance in the eyes of others that they no longer think for or about themselves. Their sole focus becomes improving their image in society, while never truly reaching their idea of the ideal appearance. This is where issues with self-esteem come into play. On Maslow’s Hierarchy, self-esteem is the tier below self-actualization. Therefore, if individuals can never get past the self-esteem tier, they will struggle to achieve self-actualization.”

Dolly, who has wanted to be a teacher his entire life, said he plans to continue his research and expand upon it in the years to come.

“I am excited to be representing Shepherd University, especially the School of Education,” Dolly said. “My time working with someone as inspiring and caring as Dr. Burke has far exceeded anything I imagined as an undergraduate, and I am looking forward to what the future has in store.”

URDC’s purpose is to familiarize state legislators with research and creative activities involving undergraduate students that occur on campuses across the state. This year, more than 70 researchers will make presentations on a wide range of subjects, including the sciences, arts, social sciences, and humanities. Links to presentations will be ready for viewing at 11 a.m. and an interactive virtual symposium will take place from 2- 4:30 p.m.

For more information and to RSVP for the virtual symposium, visit

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