MPIDR Working Paper

Multi-platform social media use: little evidence of impacts on adult well-being

Lohmann, S., Zagheni, E.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-023, 44 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2020)
Open Access


Social media have become a near-ubiquitous part of our lives. The growing concern that their use may alter our well-being has been met with elusive scientific evidence. Existing literature often simplifies social media use as a homogeneous process. In reality, social media use and functions vary widely depending on platform and demographic characteristics of users, and there may be qualitative differences between using few versus many different social media platforms. Using data from the General Social Survey, an underanalyzed data source for this purpose, we characterize intensive social media users and examine how differential platform use impacts well-being. We document substantial heterogeneity in the demography of users and show that intensive users tend to be young, female, more likely to be Black than Hispanic, from high SES backgrounds, from more religious backgrounds, and from families with migration background, compared to both non-users and moderate users. The intensity of social media use seemed largely unrelated to well-being in both unadjusted models and in propensity-score models that adjusted for selection bias and demographic factors. Among middle-aged and older adults, however, intensive social media use may be slightly associated with depressive symptoms. Our findings indicate that although mediums of communication have changed with the advent of social media, these new mediums are not necessarily detrimental to well-being.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.