Does using social media jeopardize well-being? The importance of separating within- from between-person effects

Olga Stavrova*, Jaap Denissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Social networking sites (SNS) are frequently criticized as a driving force behind rising depression rates. Yet empirical studies exploring the associations between SNS use and well-being have been predominantly cross-sectional, while the few existing longitudinal studies provided mixed results. We examined prospective associations between SNS use and multiple indicators of well-being in a nationally representative sample of Dutch adults (N ∼ 10,000), comprising six waves of annual measures of SNS use and well-being. We used an analytic method that estimated prospective effects of SNS use and well-being while also estimating time-invariant between-person associations between these variables. Between individuals, SNS use was associated with lower well-being. However, within individuals, year-to-year changes in SNS use were not prospectively associated with changes in well-being (or vice versa). Overall, our analyses suggest that the conclusions about the causal impact of social media on rising mental health problems in the population might be premature.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • ADOLESCENTS
  • ASSOCIATIONS
  • BEHAVIORS
  • DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
  • FACEBOOK USAGE
  • LONELINESS
  • MODELS
  • PACKAGE
  • TECHNOLOGY
  • and within-person effects
  • between
  • emotions
  • life satisfaction
  • loneliness
  • longitudinal methods
  • self-esteem
  • social media
  • social networking sites

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