Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 10, pp 2114–2128 | Cite as

Social Media Social Comparison of Ability (but not Opinion) Predicts Lower Identity Clarity: Identity Processing Style as a Mediator

  • Chia-chen YangEmail author
  • Sean M. Holden
  • Mollie D. K. Carter
Empirical Research


Social comparison on social media has received increasing attention, but most research has focused on one type of social comparison and its psycho-emotional implications. Little is known about how different types of social comparison influence youth’s identity development. Drawing on the theories of identity processing styles and social comparison, we examined how two different forms of social comparison on social media related to three identity processing styles, which in turn predicted youth’s global self-esteem and identity clarity. We surveyed 219 college freshmen (Mage = 18.29; 74% female) once in the Fall and once in the Spring. Social comparison of ability on social media was related to concurrent diffuse-avoidant identity processing style, which predicted lower identity clarity months later. In contrast, social comparison of opinion on social media did not influence college freshmen’s global self-esteem and identity clarity through identity processing styles. The findings clarified the implications of online social comparison for youth’s identity development.


Social media Social comparison Identity processing styles Identity Self-esteem Emerging adult 


Authors’ Contributions

C-cY conceptualized the study, conceived of the design, collected data, performed the statistical analyses, interpreted the results, and composed the manuscript; SMH participated in developing hypotheses, interpreting results, and drafting the manuscript; MDKC participated in recruiting participants and drafting the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The Institutional Review Board at the University of Memphis approved this research. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chia-chen Yang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sean M. Holden
    • 2
  • Mollie D. K. Carter
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and ResearchUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research & Center for Research in Educational PolicyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and ResearchUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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