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Priming Effects of Social Media Use Scales on Well-Being Outcomes: The Influence of Intensity and Addiction Scales on Self-Reported Depression


To understand behavior on social media, researchers have created and validated dozens of scales. Many can be sorted into two main categories: those that focus on the intensity of social media use and those that focus on addictive aspects. These scales tend to result in different conclusions regarding people’s well-being: studies asking about addiction find that social media use is often associated with higher reported depression scores, whereas studies focusing on intensity typically find an association with improved well-being. While these different outcomes may be explained by real underlying differences in well-being, the difference may also be due to the priming effects that addiction and intensity scales have on subsequent well-being measures. In this article, we report on two studies that examine priming effects on reported depression for these two types of social media use scales. We examine the possibility that different associations between social media and depression may be caused by the survey design itself, not by underlying differences in depression. In light of our findings, we propose that researchers investigating the relationship between social media and well-being adopt the methodology of asking questions about well-being before questions about social media use to mitigate effects of priming.

Hannah Mieczkowski
Angela Y. Lee
Jeffrey T. Hancock
Social Media + Society
Publication Date
November 25, 2019