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Unmasking the bright–dark duality of social media use on psychological well-being: a large-scale longitudinal study

Yanqing Lin (Department of Information and Service Management, Aalto University School of Business, Espoo, Finland)
Shaoxiong Fu (College of Information Management, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China)
Xun Zhou (Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, York, UK)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 30 January 2023

Issue publication date: 27 November 2023

1106

Abstract

Purpose

As the number of social media users continues to rise globally, a heated debate emerges on whether social media use improves or harms mental health, as well as the bidirectional relation between social media use and mental health. Motivated by this, the authors’ study adopts the stressor–strain–outcome model and social compensation hypothesis to disentangle the effect mechanism between social media use and psychological well-being. The purpose of this paper is to address this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

To empirically validate the proposed research model, a large-scale two-year longitudinal questionnaire survey on social media use was administered to a valid sample of 6,093 respondents recruited from a university in China. Structural equation modeling was employed for data analysis.

Findings

A longitudinal analysis reveals that social media use positively (negatively) impacts psychological well-being through the mediator of nomophobia (perceived social support) in a short period. However, social media use triggers more psychological unease, as well as more life satisfaction from a longitudinal perspective.

Originality/value

This study addresses the bidirectional relation between social media use and psychological unease. The current study also draws both theoretical and practical implications by unmasking the bright–dark duality of social media use on psychological well-being.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Yanqing Lin gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Finnish Foundation for Economic Education (Liikesivistysrahasto) and the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (Grant Nos.: 12-3407-40, 13-3998-14 and 14-4368-17). Shaoxiong Fu gratefully acknowledges support from 2021 General Projects of Philosophy and Social Science Research in Colleges and Universities in Jiangsu Province: “Research on developing the model of social media service quality based on big data mining of user generated content” (Project No. 2021SJA0046), the Fundamental Research Funds of Humanities and Social Science Research for the Central Universities of China (Project No.: SKYC2021023) and 2021 Shuang Chuang Doctoral Program in Jiangsu Province (Project No.: JSSCBS20210268). Xun Zhou gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Grant No.: 00201201).

Citation

Lin, Y., Fu, S. and Zhou, X. (2023), "Unmasking the bright–dark duality of social media use on psychological well-being: a large-scale longitudinal study", Internet Research, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 2308-2355. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-05-2022-0320

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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