Are social media really bad for your children?

Maybe not:

To disentangle between-person associations from within-person effects, we analyzed an eight-wave, large-scale, and nationally representative panel dataset (Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, 2009–2016) using random-intercept cross-lagged panel models (2). We adopted a specification curve analysis framework (35)—a computational method which minimizes the risk that a specific profile of analytical decisions yields false-positive results. In place of a single model, we tested a wide range of theoretically grounded analysis options [data is available on the UK data service (6); code is available on the Open Science Framework (7)]…

We first examined between-person associations (Fig. 1Left), addressing the question Do adolescents using more social media show different levels of life satisfaction compared with adolescents using less? Across all operationalizations, the median cross-sectional correlation was negative (ψ = −0.13), an effect judged as small by behavioral scientists (8). Next, we examined the within-person effects of social media use on life satisfaction (Fig. 1Center) and of life satisfaction on social media use (Fig. 1Right), asking the questions Does an adolescent using social media more than they do on average drive subsequent changes in life satisfaction? and To what extent is the relation reciprocal? Both median longitudinal effects were trivial in size (social media predicting life satisfaction, β = −0.05; life satisfaction predicting social media use, β = −0.02).

The effects which are observed are larger for females:

For females, however, social media was a predictor of slightly decreased life satisfaction across all domains, except satisfaction with appearance (b = −0.13 to −0.05 or β = −0.09 to −0.04; Fig. 2Center). Furthermore, all domains of life satisfaction, except satisfaction with friends, predicted slightly reduced social media use (b = −0.17 to −0.05 or β = −0.11 to −0.07; Fig. 2Right).

Here is the full (short) paper by Amy OrbenTobias Dienlin, and Andrew K. Przybylski.


Maybe not, but probably yes.

James Damore was right. Women and computers don't mix. They are biologically incapable of handling it.

...That's not what James Damore said at all.

You Damore supporters never say what he actually says, only what he didn't. This tells me it is safe to ignore the whole issue altogether and do other things with my time.

"Life satisfaction" may not be the best measure of what is good for an adolescent.

Wait, are we still privileging useless psych "research" over common sense and lived experience? I thought we stopped doing that a couple years ago.

This particular study seems impossible to conduct properly since low social media use is correlated with weirdness. Depending on how you try to adjust for that, you can probably get any answer you want.

Although I'm hesitant to point out particular flaws, since it detracts from the broader point, which is that psych research is almost always fundamentally broken and not worth even thinking about.

Clarification: I am not against meticulous data collection (although I do have a healthy contempt for "life satisfaction" questionnaires). But I am against over-interpretation, especially mindless second-degree interpretation like Tyler is doing here.

Tyler isn't doing any second-degree interpretation. Just reporting someone else's findings. You did however.

'I am not against meticulous data collection'

That's good, because that is precisely what social media uses to ensure profitability. And Facebook already has its own ways to measure life satisfaction, as obliquely noted in a recent post by Prof. Tabarrok - 'Facebook let researchers adjust its users' news feeds to manipulate their emotions – and has suggested that such experimentation is routine, which is seemingly how the idea got past the advertising firm's ethics committees.

In 2012, researchers led by the company's data scientist Adam Kramer, manipulated which posts from their friends the sample of nearly 700,000 users could see in their “News feed”, suppressing either positive or negative posts, to see whether either cheerful or downer posts seemed to be emotionally contagious.'

«Wait, are we still privileging useless psych "research" over common sense and lived experience? »

"common sense and lived experience" - useless psych "research" with a N=1

Of course. Advertisers deploy the latest insights from psychology, big data, and other fields to manipulate grown adults into buying their products. Tech wouldn't be worth trillions if this wasn't so effective. Nation-state actors conduct psy-ops and information warfare for their own ideological/political ends. Most children and many adults have little to no psychological defense against these manipulations.

This has nothing to do with social media. It was television that perfected the manipulative aspect of advertising. Nation-state propaganda efforts are also nothing new.

Tech is valuable not because it allows some new form of manipulation — the most effective advertising is still plain old video, which is why every website pivoted to autoplaying ads— but rather because it allows precisely targeted advertising and tracking response and effectiveness.

'It was television that perfected the manipulative aspect of advertising'

No respect for radio?

"Does an adolescent using social media more than they do on average drive subsequent changes in life satisfaction?"

Social media may just be magic mirror from Snow White. Instead of a magic mirror that qualitatively tells us we're beautiful, social media tells you quantitatively with retweets, likes or shares how beautiful you are.

What matters may be the urge to seek validation or approval from other people. Not the mechanism or device we use look for validation.

I think the authors found a nice correlation, but writing the use of social media controls life satisfaction may be a stretch.

Don't be so quick to throw out the baby with the bath-water. Some psychology research is quite useful and informative.
Regrettably some researchers are insufficiently trained in statistics and are perversely motivated. The field should not be disrespected and bashed just because of a few bad apples, anymore than physics should slammed and low-rated because it has its own bad apples.
Psychology tells us that bad apples are the cost of doing business.

As President Captain Bolsonaro pointed out, social media frees citizens from the lies of big press and politicians.

You get to choose your own liars. Or have them selected for your profile.

We did a very informative podcast with Amy, the author, a few weeks ago: It is worth a listen if you are interested in the topic (social media use) or the methods (specification curve analysis).

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