Using Social Media for Social Comparison and Feedback-Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms

Abstract

This study examined specific technology-based behaviors (social comparison and interpersonal feedback-seeking) that may interact with offline individual characteristics to predict concurrent depressive symptoms among adolescents. A total of 619 students (57 % female; mean age 14.6) completed self-report questionnaires at 2 time points. Adolescents reported on levels of depressive symptoms at baseline, and 1 year later on depressive symptoms, frequency of technology use (cell phones, Facebook, and Instagram), excessive reassurance-seeking, and technology-based social comparison and feedback-seeking. Adolescents also completed sociometric nominations of popularity. Consistent with hypotheses, technology-based social comparison and feedback-seeking were associated with depressive symptoms. Popularity and gender served as moderators of this effect, such that the association was particularly strong among females and adolescents low in popularity. Associations were found above and beyond the effects of overall frequency of technology use, offline excessive reassurance-seeking, and prior depressive symptoms. Findings highlight the utility of examining the psychological implications of adolescents’ technology use within the framework of existing interpersonal models of adolescent depression and suggest the importance of more nuanced approaches to the study of adolescents’ media use.

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Notes

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    danah boyd has chosen not to capitalize her name; more information about her decision can be found at danah.org.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grant R01-HD055342 awarded to Mitchell J. Prinstein. This work was also supported in part by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-1144081 awarded to Jacqueline Nesi. We wish to sincerely thank the many research assistants and research participants who made this study possible.

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Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Jacqueline Nesi or Mitchell J. Prinstein.

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Nesi, J., Prinstein, M.J. Using Social Media for Social Comparison and Feedback-Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms. J Abnorm Child Psychol 43, 1427–1438 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0

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Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Technology
  • Social media
  • Interpersonal feedback-seeking
  • Social comparison