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Exploring the Relationship Between Social Media Addiction and Psychological Distress in Young Adults



Social media plays an essential role in the world today and heavily influences our lives today. However, it has also been proven to have a profound influence on people’s mental health and distress levels. This paper pays close attention to this issue, addressing how excessive use of social media platforms influences the mental health of young adults at San Jose State University.


Forty-six participants were issued with a questionnaire with self-reported questions on how social media affects their mental health, anxiety, stress level, and self-esteem. Papers highlighting the same issue were also used to develop findings.


The results illustrated that social media significantly influences individuals’ mental health. 71.8% noted that they were either very, moderately, or slightly anxious when they could not access their social media accounts. 43% of the participants stated that they never dealt with anxiety. However, 57% of the participants noted that they had to deal with anxiety from using social media.


These findings indicate a need for further research on this pandemic so clinicians can develop proper ways of dealing with this problem and help future generations.


The use of social media continues to be on the rise in the vast majority of the world’s population, particularly young people. Research indicates that intensive use of social media is linked with psychological and behavioral issues. The use of social media is also connected with addiction, similar to the addiction that comes with substance abuse. Social media use has become a pandemic as it is likely to occupy one’s day to the extent that they cannot deliver on their responsibilities. Despite this association, social media use is also linked to psychological distress, especially for young adults. It is associated with low self-esteem, disrupted sleep, social impairment, and poor physical health. Xuan & Che Amat (2020) noted that there is no difference between the addiction that happens among adolescents and the one that occurs among young people.

Research shows that with increased use of social media, young people often develop anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. The main aim of this review is to explore the relationship between social media addiction and psychological distress in young adults. Mainly looking at how excessive use of social media platforms affects the mental health of young adults, specifically students at San Jose University. This paper uses a mixed-method research approach. Survey is the primary method of collecting data. Surveys are often used as a tool for acquiring self-reported information as they allow participants to share their thoughts and feelings in relation to social media addiction and its consequences on young adults’ mental health. Apart from surveys, the study will analyze and use data collected from other researchers who analyzed the topic. The hypothesis of the study is likely to find that more young adults are addicted to social media, which has a significant impact on their mental health.



The target group for this study is young who study at San Jose State University. This particular group was chosen because they usually spend the majority of their time on social media, and they all show distinct variations in how social media affects them in terms of addiction and mental health issues. The participants are randomly selected. The expected number of participants is 50 individuals. The age range for the participants is 18 to 32 years. Out of the fifty targeted participants, we reached 47 participants. Of the 46, 9 were men, two were non-binary, and 35 were women. No particular rules were used to screen out or delete participants at the beginning of the study.

Procedure section

Several strategies were employed to recruit individuals. The primary method used was a distribution of recruitment emails to prospective participants using online platforms such as Discord. The platforms will be used to reach people or potential participants who might be interested, and personalized approaches will be used to ensure we get the most from San Jose State University students. Students will be issued a questionnaire to fill out and hand back to the researchers. There will be no compensation for individuals who decide to participate. The participants were asked several questions about how they use social media, the time they spend on different platforms, the psychological effects that social media has on them, and any other indicators of addiction. The information was collected and stored in Google Forms and surveyed. Participants could also access the survey via a link, and they responded electronically. In responding, there was the need to sign a consent form. Informing them that they can leave the study at any time. The survey took 15 to 20 minutes to fill out completely, depending on the responses given. Among the two team members, each had their own independent roles.


It was noted that most of the 46 participants who participated in the study spent much time on Instagram. 43 of the 46 participants spent more time on Instagram, two spent most of their time on TikTok, and one spent time on Reddit. The least recorded time on social media was 1 hour, while the most was 12 hours. Many also indicated that they receive messages from social media, and they also indicated that they often feel a strong urge to check their social media constantly. 36.9% of the participants noted that using social media heavily influences how they can deliver on their duties or work responsibilities. Leading to procrastination, missed deadlines, or failure to perform their roles and responsibilities. 26.2% of the participants noted that they get anxious whenever they cannot access their social media accounts.

In comparison, 71.8% indicated they were either very, moderately, or slightly anxious when they could not access their social media accounts. In relation to anxiety, 43% of the participants stated that they never dealt with anxiety. However, 57% of the participants noted that they had to deal with anxiety from using social media.

47.8% stated they do not experience depression when using social media, and 52.2% highlighted that they often deal with depression. In relation to loneliness, 71.8% of the participants who filled out the questionnaire stated that they have to deal with loneliness while using social media. 60.9% of the individuals who participated in the study noted that they do not experience stress from using social media. These findings indicate that social media has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. Bringing about distress, confusion, anxiety, and loneliness. The study further noted that 65.3% of the participants often have low self-esteem due to heavy social media use. There was also a high record of individuals who believe that social media influences and contributes to individual feelings. They often find themselves comparing themselves to other people online, their peers, or strangers they might have met via social media platforms. Of the 46 participants, only one has looked for help to deal with the issues of psychological distress that arise from intensive use of social media.


From the results collected, it is clear that social media heavily influences the way young adults view and relate to the world, having massive impacts on their mental health. The results indicate that social media brings about anxiety, high anxiety levels, loneliness, and self-esteem. One of the things that came about as a discovery is that young adults are not taking any measures to ensure they deal with the issues that come about from intensive use of social media. The indication that the participants get high anxiety levels when they are away from their phones showed that social media use is now an addiction. The issues that arise from heavy social media use need to be addressed to ensure all people are able to deal with the different mental problems and psychological issues that come about as a result of failing to use social media. It is also clear that participants strongly depend on social media as they use it for up to 12 hours a day. That means social media occupies their day, making it hard for them to deliver on their different duties and responsibilities.

Similar to Henzel & Hakansson’s (2021) study that highlighted that social media use is linked to addiction and mental disorders, this study was able to reach a similar conclusion. With the long hours spent on social media, people are easily addicted and lost in social media use. Poon & Jiang (2020) highlighted that it is difficult to find out whether social media influences individuals’ mindfulness; in their study, they examined whether mindfulness brings about the feeling of being left out on social media. Their results illustrated that mindfulness moderated the effects of feeling left out on social media on the outcomes. Individuals with high mindfulness indicated having low levels of psychological distress and antisocial behavior after they got little attention from social media. In the study by Satici et al. (2023), it was noted that anxiety, depression, and stress come about as a result of intense social media use. This is similar to the findings acquired from our study. Tullett-Prado et al. (2023) also stated that all these are side effects of social media addiction, and they heavily influence an individual’s mental health and their individual distress levels.

From the results gathered in this study, it is clear that there is a need for further research to be done on how mental health and addiction can be improved for people who are addicted to social media. There is a need for information to be dispensable and spread on the effects of heavy use of social media and the high levels of dependency that often come up. The research supports existing theories that social media influences individuals’ mental health and their general dependence on different platforms. The results gathered should be presented to clinicians to show the need for more attention to be given to the issue.

After carrying out this research, it is clear that social media affects young adults daily. They find it hard to be confident in themselves as social media paints a false image of a beautiful world with no faults. People often compare themselves to their peers, and they develop self-esteem issues that make it hard for them to enjoy their lives. They constantly need to pick up their phones and look at trending topics. This heavily influences the way they deliver on their different duties. This research informs researchers and clinicians of the need to educate young adults on the side effects of using social media heavily.


Henzel, V., & Håkansson, A. (2021). Hooked on virtual social life. Problematic social media use and associations with mental distress and addictive disorders. PLOS ONE16(4), e0248406.

Poon, K.-T., & Jiang, Y. (2020). Getting less likes on social media: Mindfulness ameliorates the detrimental effects of feeling left out online. Mindfulness11(4), 1038–1048.

Satici, B., Kayis, A. R., & Griffiths, M. D. (2023). Exploring the association between social media addiction and relationship satisfaction: Psychological distress as a mediator. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction21(4), 2037–2051.

Tullett-Prado, D., Doley, J. R., Zarate, D., Gomez, R., & Stavropoulos, V. (2023). Conceptualizing social media addiction: A longitudinal network analysis of social media addiction symptoms and their relationships with psychological distress in a community sample of adults. BMC Psychiatry23(1).



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