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The conditions under which social media use impacts well-being and mental health are complex. The current 10-day longitudinal quasi-experiment (student sample, N = 111) applied an entertainment theory lens to explore the effects of active posting and engaging with hedonic or inspiring Facebook content (vs. passive browsing) on young people’s eudaimonic well-being (levels of connectedness to humanity, love, compassion, presence of meaning) and mental health (anxiety and depressive symptoms). The results provide tentative evidence that finding and sharing inspiring content to a Facebook group increased love and compassion toward others over time. It also led to more compassion at the end of the study compared to participants who shared hedonic content. Although we did not find an increase in connectedness and meaningfulness over time for participants sharing content that they found inspiring, the latter also did not take away from those experiences, regardless of how they used it. Similarly, no decrease—but also no increase—in anxiety and depressive symptoms were found over time, regardless of condition. The study stresses the importance of better understanding the content young adults engage with on social media for their mental health and well-being.


This article was originally published in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, volume 16, issue 2, in 2022.


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