Multi-Platform Social Media Use and Well-Being: Evidence on Usage Variety and Intensity from the General Social Survey

Sophie Lohmann , Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)
Emilio Zagheni, Max Planck Institute for demographic Research

Social media have become a near-ubiquitous part of our lives. The growing concern that their use may alter our well-being has been met with elusive scientific evidence, in part because appropriate data are lacking. Existing literature often simplifies social media use as a homogeneous process. In reality, social media use and functions vary widely depending on platform and the demographic characteristics of users. Using data from the General Social Survey, a source essentially untapped for this purpose, we characterize intensive social media users and examine how differential platform use impacts well-being. We first document substantial heterogeneity in the demography of users and show how intensive users differ from lower-intensity users. In a next step, we examine how the intensity of social media use is associated with various well-being indicators through analyzing the number of used platforms and their interaction with age, the analysis of single specific platforms, and propensity-score adjustment. The results show that multi-platform use seems largely unrelated to well-being in both unadjusted and propensity-score adjusted models, but among middle-aged and older adults, it is slightly associated with depressive symptoms. We discuss how our methods improve on previous studies and situate our results in the larger literature on social media and well-being. Our initial findings indicate that social media has changed the surface form of communication rather than its function.

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 Presented in Session 83. Health and Wellbeing in a Digital World