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Social Media and Face-to-Face Interactions Among U.S. Young Adults: Associations with Depression

Shensa, Ariel (2020) Social Media and Face-to-Face Interactions Among U.S. Young Adults: Associations with Depression. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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With the proliferation of social media (SM) use, young adults’ interactions with their social networks have substantially shifted from face-to-face (FTF) to SM. While it is well-established that FTF connections provide emotional support and are beneficial to mental health, the research on SM connections is less clear. Therefore, the research presented in this dissertation aimed to address gaps in our understanding of the associations between SM use, perceived emotional support, and depression with three inter-related projects.
Data from a cross-sectional, online survey of 2,408 U.S. adults ages 18 to 30 was analyzed. Factor analysis using these data revealed that FTF and SM-based perceived emotional support were two distinct constructs. A fully adjusted multivariable logistic model showed that greater endorsement of SM-based emotional support was associated with significantly greater odds of depression, whereas greater endorsement of FTF emotional support was associated with significantly lower odds of depression.
A purposeful random sample of 100 depressed and non-depressed individuals was then selected from this sample. Thematic analysis of participants’ responses to open-ended qualitative items revealed that of the 16 themes found, connection with others and exposure to negativity were the most commonly referenced positive and negative effects of SM, respectively, regardless of depression status. SM was noted as a distraction from real life more often by non-depressed than depressed participants and fear of being judged was mentioned solely by depressed participants.
Finally, cluster analysis was used to partition the sample based upon endorsement of high FTF and SM social sharing and perceived emotional support. A four-cluster solution was found. After controlling for related socio-demographic and person characteristics, membership in the clusters characterized by high SM social sharing were associated with depression.
These findings suggest that SM-based experiences are not the same as those that occur FTF and that they may be associated with a mental health risk. Because the directionality of effects is not clear, it may be that depressed young adults perceive and experience SM differently than non-depressed young adults. Findings from these projects may help inform future research clarifying the dynamic interplay between SM use, perceived emotional support, and depression.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Shensa, Arielariel.shensa@pitt.eduars146
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBurke, Jessica
Thesis AdvisorSwitzer, Galen
Committee MemberPrimack, Brian
Committee MemberYabes, Jonathan
Committee MemberChoukas-Bradley, Sophia
Date: 30 March 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 February 2020
Approval Date: 30 March 2020
Submission Date: 25 March 2020
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 69
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Medicine > Clinical and Translational Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: social media; face-to-face; emotional support; depression; cluster analysis; scale development
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2020 15:12
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2021 05:15


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