Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) have revealed their findings from an eight-year study of 12,000 British teenagers into the impacts of social media on their overall life satisfaction. The data from the study suggests that links between social media use and life satisfaction are minimal.

This is the first large-scale study focused on this issue. Prior to this scientists were unsure of the ‘direction’ of any causal link; whether adolescents had lower life satisfaction due to social media use, or whether those with lower life satisfaction use more social media. 

Although the scientists who carried out the study concluded that the links were mostly trivial, there was some evidence of causality. Generally, these effects were also more clearly seen among women than among men.  

The researchers did note that due to a lack of a political, ethical, and scientific framework for sharing detailed usage data from social media companies, their research was limited to the use of self-reported social media data. 

Professor Przybylski, Director of Research at the OII, said: “Given the rapid pace of technological advancement in recent years, the question of how our increasing use of technology to interact with each other affects our wellbeing has become increasingly important. With most of the current debate based on lacklustre evidence, this study represents an important step towards mapping the effects of technology on adolescent well-being.

“Moving forward access to this kind of data will be key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people.”

Amy Orben, College Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Oxford, also said: “The previous literature was based almost entirely on correlations with no means to dissociate whether social media use leads to changes in life satisfaction or changes in life satisfaction influence social media use.

“While our study is a very promising step towards robust science in this area, it is only the first step. To ultimately understand how the diverse uses of social media affect teenagers we need industry data.”

Another researcher, Dr Tobias Dienlin from the University of Hohenheim, added: “More than half of the statistical models we tested were not significant, and those that were significant suggested the effects were not as simple as often stated in the media. Most statistically significant models examined teenage girls. However, because these effects were tiny, they weren’t significantly larger in girls compared to boys.”

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