Social Media Research Results

Various international studies demonstrate the potential negative effects social media can have on the perception of self.


US psychologist Melissa Hunt believes her team at the University of Pennsylvania is responsible for the ‘first experimental study of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use’ and has ‘proven a causal connection between social media use and decreased well-being’, reported

In the study, featured in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, Hunt argues previous studies were either limited in scope or used ‘unrealistic situations,’ such as monitoring participants for only brief periods in laboratory settings.

‘We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,’ said Hunt.

Her team focused on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram because they are the social media platforms most popular with undergraduates.

The study included 143 undergraduates who each completed a survey to determine their baseline mood and well-being at the start of the study. They also supplied a week’s worth of data from their smartphones to demonstrate their current social media habits.

Hunt’s team randomly assigned each participant into one of two groups. They instructed undergraduates in the first group to continue using social media as usual, and those in the second group to limit their use of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to just 10 minutes a day for each platform. Over 3 weeks, participants made their smartphone data available to the researchers and completed surveys that examined a range of factors, including participants’ anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear of missing out.

The group who reduced their social media use experienced signi cant decreases in depression and loneliness. These e ects were ‘particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.’

The study only investigated three social media platforms, so it is not yet possible to determine whether the ndings might also apply to other social media platforms. However, Hunt intends to investigate this in future studies, one of which will focus on college students’ use of dating apps.

Based on the findings, Hunt offered advice for social media users worried about the e ect these platforms could have on their well-being: ‘When you’re not busy getting sucked into click-bait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life. In general, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.

‘It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely.’ Sources: Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology and

Amid growing international debate about the e ects of social media use on mental health and well-being, a new Canadian study reveals how social media use ‘could affect the self-perceived body image of young women’, reported

The research, led by Professor Jennifer Mills and Dr Jacqueline Hogue at York University in Toronto, was published in the journal Body Image.

The study divided 118 female undergraduate students aged 18–27 into two groups. Those in the rst group logged into Facebook and Instagram for 5 minutes or more and were asked to nd one peer of roughly the same age whom they ‘explicitly considered more attractive’ than themselves.

Then the researchers asked all participants to comment on the photos of their peers. In the control group, the women logged into Facebook or Instagram for at least 5 minutes and left a comment on a post of a family member whom they did not consider more attractive.

Before and after these tasks, participants lled in a questionnaire that asked how much dissatisfaction they felt with their appearance, using a scale ranging from ‘none’
to ‘very much.’

Participants rated ‘how dissatisfied they felt about their overall appearance and body by placing a vertical line on a 10cm horizontal line’. The researchers scored the responses ‘to the nearest millimeter,’ which created a 100-point scale.

Their results revealed that after interacting with attractive peers, the women’s perceptions of their own appearance changed, whereas interacting with family members did not have any bearing on their body image.

Professor Mills commented: ‘Social media engagement with attractive peers increases negative state body image. The results showed these young adult women felt more dissatis ed with their bodies.

‘They felt worse about their own appearance after looking at social media pages of someone that they perceived to be more attractive than them. Even if they felt bad about themselves before they came into the study, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task.

‘When we compare ourselves with other people, that has the potential to a ect the valuation of ourselves.

‘We really need to educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves and how this could even be linked to stringent dieting, eating disorders, or excessive exercise. There are people who may be triggered by social media and who are especially vulnerable.’

Sources: Body Image and