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Awareness as a Mechanism for How Internet and Social Media Use Increase or Decrease Psychological Distress

Sat, August 11, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 407


This paper tests the relationship between digital media use and non-specific psychological distress (PD) and more serious psychological distress (SPD) associated with depression and other DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders. This paper tests whether the relationship of social media use to PD is dependent on change in the PD of social ties who also use social media. Using longitudinal survey data on a representative sample of American adults, neither text messaging, social network sites, email or other Internet use were found to contribute to increased PD or the likelihood of SPD. In fact, having extended family members who are also internet users substantively lowers PD over time. Social media use also reduces general PD and the risk of SPD over time. However, having extended family members who also use social media contributes to higher or lower PD and the chances of experiencing SPD based on changes to the family member’s PD.