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When Adolescents’ Self-Worth Depends on Their Social Media Feedback: A Longitudinal Investigation With Depressive Symptoms


While social media is assumed to exacerbate adolescents’ depressive symptoms, research findings are ambiguous. One way to move the field forward is by looking beyond time spent on social media and considering subjective experiences. The current three-wave longitudinal panel study examines the within- and between-person relations between adolescents’ self-worth dependency on social media feedback and depressive symptoms. About 1,607 adolescents participated in two of the three waves, yet a third had to be excluded due to failing an attention check. Among the analytical sample of 1,032 adolescents, we found that adolescents who derived more of their self-worth from social media feedback were also more depressed, as indicated by a positive correlation at the between-person level. No support was found for within-person associations over time. These results highlight the need to examine effects of subjective experiences with social media by separating within- and between-person dynamics to reach more precise conclusions.

Lara Schreurs
Angela Y. Lee
Jeffrey T. Hancock
Xun "Sunny" Liu
Communication Research
Publication Date
February 20, 2024