AUSTIN (KXAN) — Social media could be affecting adolescents’ mental health.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin conducted multiple studies to look at the psychological effects of not getting enough validation online.
The study directed participants to create an online profile to view and “like” other peers’ profiles of the same age. The amount of likes each profile got were used to rank each one from most to least liked.
Students who got fewer likes reported “more feelings of rejections and other negative emotions than those who received more likes.”
Study participants were notified after the fact that the likes they got were not actually determined by other people — the study used computer scripts to randomly assign the amount of likes.
“This study is an important scientific advance, because it uses an experiment, and it shows that not getting enough ‘likes’ actually causes adolescents to reduce their feelings of self-worth,” said David Yeager, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at UT Austin, in a press release.
A second study showed adolescents with the strongest negative reactions were more likely to have symptoms of depression and a higher sensitivity to daily stressors.
A third study found students who were bullied by peers at school were more likely to have negative reactions to getting fewer likes and oftentimes attributed the lack of likes to flaws within themselves.
“This study helps us understand the power of peer approval and social status during adolescence,” said the study’s lead author Hae Yeon Lee, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, in a press release.