The relationship between social media and well-being and the role of digital trace data

Published on June 29, 2023 – The article “Leaving traces behind: Using social media digital trace data to study adolescent wellbeing” by Mubashir Sultan, Christin Scholz and Wouter van den Bos provides a framework for studying relationships between social media usage and adolescent well-being using digital trace data.The authors highlight digital trace data as a key tool that can help address limitations of earlier research on social media and well-being.

Specifically, existing work which has largely relied on limited self-report measures of screen usage time has produced conflicting results, some reporting negative effects of social media use on well-being, others reporting positive effects, other reporting no effects. More recently, various scholars have called for increased granularity in the measurement of social media use, including types of use and types of users. Sultan et al. argue that digital trace data can provide a rich set of context variables in a scalable and unbiased manner. This paper provides an organizing framework for the next generation of studies on social media use and well-being by identifying opportunities for addressing existing limitations, concrete practical approaches, and potential barriers that need to be overcome to study key relationships at the individual, group and population-levels.

Read the article here.

This work was supported by C.S. is part of an NWO Veni project (with project number VI.veni.191G.034), which is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). W.v.d.B. is supported by the European Research Council grant number (ERC2018-StG-803338) and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research grant number (NWO-VIDI 016.Vidi.185.068).