Active social media use and its impact on well-being — an experimental study on the effects of posting pictures on Instagram

Active use of social networking sites (SNSs) has long been assumed to benefit users’ well-being. However, this established hypothesis is increasingly being challenged, with scholars criticizing its lack of empirical support and the imprecise conceptualization of active use. Nevertheless, with considerable heterogeneity among existing studies on the hypothesis and causal evidence still limited, a final verdict on its robustness is still pending. To contribute to this ongoing debate, we conducted a week-long randomized control trial with N = 381 adult Instagram users recruited via Prolific. Specifically, we tested how active SNS use, operationalized as picture postings on Instagram, affects different dimensions of well-being. The results depicted a positive effect on users’ positive affect but null findings for other well-being outcomes. The findings broadly align with the recent criticism against the active use hypothesis and support the call for a more nuanced view on the impact of SNSs.

Krause, H., Deters, F., Baumann, A. y Krasnova, H. (2022). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Full article here.