Undergraduate Research Journal


Studies have recently examined associations between social media and psychological distress. Although Facebook use is related to lower psychological distress, few studies have examined the cumulative impact of social media use on psychological distress across multiple social media platforms. According to Erikson’s (1968; 1983) psychosocial theory of development, the relationship between social media and psychological distress may depend on age, specifically comparing young adulthood to middle adulthood. The goal of this study is to examine the relationship between social media behaviors, such as posting or monitoring, on different social media platforms (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter) and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, while also examining age as a moderator. Data comes from participants from a small city in the Midwest and an urban city in the Southwest that completed a daily online survey for 10 consecutive days that addressed how much time and what behaviors participants engaged in across social media platforms and daily reports of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (i.e., psychological distress). Results from linear regression analyses found little support for the independent effects of behaviors on social media platforms for psychological distress. However, some support was found for differences between participants who were between 18 and 23 and participants who were between 24 and 40 with Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter and psychological distress. For middle adults, using Facebook and SnapChat was predictive of psychological distress compared to younger adults, and the reverse was found for Twitter. These results reflect that middle adults may use social media for social comparison as represented by the generativity versus stagnation stage of Erikson’s (1968; 1983) psychosocial development theory, which has implications for psychological distress. Recommendations and future directions will be presented.



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