As the presence and use of social media grows, image-based sites have increased in popularity among adolescents and young adults. Research to date has suggested conflicting outcomes of social media use on individuals. A study by social media researchers at Boston University included a sample of 359 college-aged individuals from throughout the United States, sought to analyze the relationship between active social media use and its association with user self-esteem and well-being through data obtained through survey research from undergraduate college students. The hypothesis was that active Instagram use would be positively associated with user well-being and self-esteem.
This study demonstrated that “not only was this hypothesis supported, but our findings reveal that intensity of Instagram use serves as a mediating variable in the relationship between active Instagram use and well-being and self-esteem.” The study shows that “respondents who identified as more active Instagram users used social media more intensely, and those who used social media more intensely had higher self-esteem. Similarly, those who used social media more intensely reported higher levels of well-being.”
Specifically, respondents who identified as more active Instagram users used social media more intensely, and those who used social media more intensely had higher self-esteem. Similarly, those who used social media more intensely reported higher levels of well-being. While the correlations among these variables may be slight, we argue that they pose implications regarding how usage patterns impact user outcomes. These findings illustrate the role of intensity of Instagram usage on user outcomes and reveal a relationship among these variables, where more active Instagram use, coupled with more intense usage, ultimately corresponds to positive effects specifically elevated levels of self-esteem and well-being.
This is particularly interesting since a number of previous studies have correlated intensity of social media use with negative outcomes or consequences. Clearly, additional studies are needed to demonstrate and delineate both the assets and liabilities of social media use and misuse.