Are Online Comparisons Damaging our In-Person Connections? Effects of Social Media Use on Romantic Relationships
Social media has been extensively researched, and its effects on well-being are well established. What is less studied, however, is how social media affects romantic relationships specifically. The few studies that have researched this have found mixed results. Some researchers have found social media to have a positive influence on relationship outcomes, while other have found social media to have a negative influence. In an attempt to reconcile these discrepancies, the current thesis study explored possible mediators between social media use and relationship health outcomes which, to my knowledge, has not been investigated in previous literature. Three moderators were explored: type of social media use (active use versus passive use), relationship-contingent self-esteem, and social comparison orientation. The baseline portion of the study had 547 individuals, recruited from Arizona State University’s SONA system as well as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, who were in a romantic relationship for at least three months; the follow-up portion of the study had 181 participants. Results suggest that women who passively use social media exhibit a negative association between hours per day of social media use and baseline relationship satisfaction. Men who passively use social media exhibited a negative association between hours per day of social media use and follow-up relationship satisfaction, as well as a negative association with baseline commitment. While relationship-contingent self-esteem did not moderate the association between hours per day of social media use and relationship health, it was positively related to both men and women’s baseline relationship satisfaction and baseline commitment. Social comparison orientation (SCO) produced minimal results; women low on SCO exhibited a negative association between social media use and baseline relationship satisfaction, and higher SCO for men was associated with lower baseline commitment. Finally, exploratory post-hoc mediation models revealed that relationship comparisons mediated the association between hours per day of social media use and baseline relationship, as well as baseline commitment, for both men and women. Previous research supports the findings regarding passive social media use, while the findings regarding relationship-contingent self-esteem and relationship comparisons add new findings to the romantic relationship literature.