Updated: Sep 27, 2020
The technology innovation has had its life-changing effects mostly on the new generations. A question mark exists whether social media is or is not a strong predictor of life satisfaction across the adolescent population.
A nationally representative panel dataset,(Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, 2009–2016), using random intercept cross-lagged panel models, was analyzed in order to disentangle between-person associations from within-person effects. 12,672 teenagers from 10 years old to 15 years old participated in this research and responded to questions such as “How many hours do you spend chatting or interacting with friends through a social website on a normal school day?”. "Between-person associations" were also examined by addressing questions such as "Do adolescents using more social media show different levels of life satisfaction compared with adolescents using less?".
The median, between-person relation and within-person effects, appeared more negative for females, hinting that gender was playing an under-explored role in the influence of social media. Social media predicted tenuous decreases in satisfaction with life and in mean satisfaction in male teenagers. Whereas, for females, social media was a predictor of slightly decreased life satisfaction across all domains:
except for satisfaction with appearance.
All domains of life satisfaction, except satisfaction with friends were related to a slight reduction in the usage of social media.
However, the study had some limitations, mentioning that self-report measures only partially reflect the objective time adolescents spend engaging with social media. Moreover, the yearly interval between measurements in the data might not be optimal for understanding reciprocal social media effects over time, underlining how no single study can capture the full causal picture.
In conclusion, within-person effects are reciprocal in females. The increase in life satisfaction is predicted by lower social media usage whereas the decrease in life satisfaction is associated with greater social media usage. Moreover, the effects of social media weren't significant in the majority of the participants which doesn't make it a strong predictor of life satisfaction in the teenage population.
Nowadays, we are surrounded by social media but still, we don't know the exact effects it has on our lives. It is critical that independent scientists, policymakers, and industry researchers cooperate more closely in order to unravel the complex constellations of effects shaping young people in the digital age.
Source: Social media’s enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction
Orben et al.