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How Does Active Social Media Use Impact Psychological Well-Being Such As Self- Esteem and Depression During Adolescence


The psychological effects of active social media usage on adolescents’ self-esteem and depression symptoms are the main focus of this study. It clarifies various aspects and dimensions, such as difficulties related to privacy and ethical considerations, gender and culture, screen time and content types, peer pressure and parental guidance, and the possible advantages of using media platforms. The review states that depending on the platform and content selection, active social media use can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on the mental health of teenagers. Also, the studies show that excessive screen time, cyberbullying and harassment online, and romanticized comparisons with bad feelings are some of the ways that social media negatively impacts psychological health. Nonetheless, alternative research points to the benefits of social media connections, such as providing a feeling of community, positive validation, and assistance from virtual groups. This research also explores intervention measures, such as school program mainstreaming, parental guidance, digital literacy, and public health initiatives.


Teenagers undergo profound changes during adolescence, including cognitive, emotional, and self-discovery. These changes encourage them to try out new learning resources, such as technology, which makes them active on social media. The younger generation’s increasing use of media platforms is ushered in a new age of digital connections. The prevalence of social media platforms has led to a new generation of teenagers who communicate, share, and connect through various channels. However, investigating the effects of teenagers’ social media activity on their psychological well-being reveals inconsistent and complex aspects. Depressive and self-esteem are influenced by individual experiences that are determined by broader demographic and social influences.

Furthermore, more research is required to determine the relationship between social media and gender depression and self-esteem. Studies reveal that young girls are more vulnerable than boys to unpleasant interactions on social media platforms, such as cyberbullying and online harassment (Cohen et al., 2017). Females’ and boys’ varying tastes for online content—boys gravitate toward gaming, while females gravitate toward image-focused platforms—follow their divergent outcomes for depression and self-esteem. Parents, educators, and mental health specialists struggle with the fallout from the growing digital connectedness. Examining how teenage social media use impacts psychological health, including the potential for depression and other negative effects, is crucial.

The literature review exploration addresses two critical questions during the investigation: 1. how does media platform activity impact adolescents’ self-esteem? 2. What role does social media use among teenagers have in their depression? and 3. Do gender disparities exist in the sadness and self-esteem of teenagers who use media heavily? I highlighted the significant effects of digital surroundings on teenagers’ emotional development and mental health in the first section of the study, emphasizing how these factors affect depression and self-esteem. The study and scholarly literature on social media’s effect on young people’s depression and self-esteem are examined in the following paragraphs. This review of the literature also delves into the subtleties that influence the psychological well-being of teenagers, such as gender disparities, cyberbullying, privacy concerns, and coping strategies.

Theoretical Framework

Exploring social media’s effects on adolescents’ self-esteem and depression relies on social comparison theory and uses and gratifications theories for guiding the research approach. For instance, the social comparison theories examine adolescents’ behavior and attitude by comparing their characteristics with other social media users (Fardouly et al., 2015). Furthermore, social comparison theory delves into idealized representations aligning adolescents’ social media practices, including self-worth assessments and self-evaluation online, impacting their self-esteem and depression. Secondly, theoretical guidance comes from the uses and gratification theory, enlightening young people’s behavior to satisfy their needs and desires through active engagement on media platforms.

According to the social comparison and gratification theory, young individuals use media platforms to fulfill their innate urge to meet specific demands and to compare themselves to others. The idealized representations of adolescents on social media platforms incline towards upward social comparisons compared to other peer accomplishments. This practice erodes adolescents’ self-esteem from the unfavorable online self-comparisons related to incessant curated online personas (Fardouly et al., 2015). Studies into social comparison theory against online content consumption attest to media’s impact on the psychological state of young individuals. However, the uses and gratification theory supports arguments on social media’s implications for young persons’ mental states (Falgoust et al., 2022). The theory explains that media avenue helps adolescents meet their informational, emotional, and social requirements, enabling active social contact and belonging. When adolescents receive positive affirmation and social support online, their self-esteem rises. Social media for distraction or escape can also lower or enhance self-esteem, depending on context and content.

Research Literature Review

Adolescents’ Self-Esteem and Active Social Media Use

Adolescents dominate the media landscape, representing the dominant demographic group. Statistical evidence shows that 81% of Americans aged 13-17 use active social media (Auxier & Anderson, 2021). Understanding social media’s impact on adolescents’ mental well-being requires a multifaceted approach covering its positives and negatives (Auxier & Anderson, 2021). For instance, social media usage condemns young users to social comparisons, cyberbullying, and online harassment. Conversely, social media are tools for self-expression, emotional support, and social interaction for adolescents, safeguarding their psychological well-being. Thus, understanding social media’s downsides requires combining the positives and negatives to appreciate their contribution to depression and self-esteem.

Additionally, self-identity exploration during adolescence affects individuals’ self-esteem, a crucial element in psychological well-being. Extensive research unearths social media’s impact on people’s self-esteem, with studies illuminating the correlation between increased self-esteem and adolescents’ active engagement on media platforms (Vidal et al., 2020). According to Vidal et al. (2020), feelings of self-worth among young people using social media arise when they receive positive feedback and enjoy a sense of belonging. For instance, a study with 1,787 young adult participants revealed increased self-esteem and engagement due to positive validation and self-expression (Auxier & Anderson, 2021). Moreover, other studies show decreased self-esteem from unfavorable self-comparisons instigated by exposing themselves to curated lives and idealized images on media avenues (Vogel et al., 2014). Hence, the harm to adolescents’ self-esteem arises when trying to contrast peers’ highlight reels with their real lives, triggering feelings of inadequacy.

Furthermore, the effect of media platforms on individual confidence depends on content and context, which shape users’ moods and satisfaction. Hogue and Mills (2019) have shown a link between the nature of content consumed on media and consumers’ self-esteem. For instance, girls experience decreased self-esteem through passive content consumption, where lack of participation when comparing themselves or viewing appearance-focused leads to negative feelings (Hogue & Mills, 2019). Additionally, studies relate the nature of social media engagement and intensity to user self-esteem changes. Mann and Blumberg (2022) outlined the self-esteem impact on adolescents performing specific activities or spending a particular amount of time on media avenues. Lower confidence was evident in adolescents engaging in excessive social media comparisons despite their passive activities (Hogue & Mills, 2019). Conversely, positive self-esteem outcomes appeared in adolescents using social media for positive communication and active self-expression. Thus, adolescents’ engagement mode and different types of content influence self-esteem outcomes among young social media users.

Depression and Active Social Media in Adolescents

The proliferation of smartphone technology and social media usage has exacerbated depression among young individuals. Depression manifests in young social media users when they exhibit isolation and loneliness due to social media overuse (Vidal et al., 2020). Nevertheless, research on depression situations arising from social media usage is equivocal, with some studies pointing to weak and other strong depression surges following social media exposure. Valkenburg et al. (2021) explain a weak association between media platform usage and depressive symptoms, as manifested in a survey of 387 adolescents. According to the researcher, depression symptoms in adolescents using social media are complex due to multiple underlying factors, including the quality of online interactions and content type consumed (Valkenburg et al., 2021). Hence, these studies’ statistical findings emphasize nuanced understanding and further exploration using multifaceted methodologies.

Social Media Use and Impact of Gender and Cultural Differences

Besides gender, culture affects the psychological well-being of young individuals using social media. Cultural expectations, values, and norms dictate adolescents’ behavior patterns on social media. Studies have compared patterns in social media usage between different cultural and demographic groups, revealing diverging practices and self-worth issues (Valkenburg et al., 2021). According to findings, Asian adolescents show a weak association between media usage and the feeling of self-worth, which is evident among European adolescents (Valkenburg et al., 2021). As a result, these cultural comparisons indicate a diverging correlation between media usage and mental well-being among different cultures.

Platforms Trends, Diversity, and Ethical Consideration

Emerging trends and platform diversity from social media’s evolution dictate adolescents’ experiences and behavior online. Different age groups prefer other social media platforms to satisfy age-specific interests. Research firms show declining Facebook adolescent popularity in the last decade, given the US’s current 7% of adolescents identifying it as preferable (Jan et al., 2017). Conversely, Snapchat and Instagram platforms have gained prominence among teens, recording 31% and 43% popularity among adolescents (Jan et al., 2017). This evolution indicates changing platform preferences and trends on various social media platforms, shaping adolescents’ depression and self-esteem issues. Thus, intervention efforts in depression symptoms and self-esteem among adolescents should consider the evolving social media landscape.

Ethical consideration is critical when addressing adolescents’ psychological well-being on extensive social media platforms. Social media platforms subject unsuspecting adolescents to ethical issues and privacy breaches, compounding their psychological well-being issues. According to research reports, data privacy violations present a significant concern for stakeholders following increased compromise regarding adolescent privacy breaches. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports show that 78% of teens must be aware of handling and utilizing their data on various social media platforms (Livingstone & Third, 2017). Lower self-esteem and anxiety among young individuals arise from personal data breaches, fearing potential misuse and identity theft. Hence, these statistical findings highlight the necessity of protecting adolescents’ data and rights on social media through ethical considerations.

The Role of Social Media’s Content Consumption

Adolescents’ psychological well-being on social media depends on the type of content consumed since adolescents engage in multiple activities. Adolescents boost their self-esteem when consuming and participating in social media activities that are relevant, age-specific, informative, and supportive (Jan et al., 2017). Conversely, they encounter content that undermines their self-esteem on social media. Teens who consume social media content about unrealistic materialism, lifestyles, and severe beauty standards develop depression, affecting their mental health. They reduce young people’s self-esteem, primarily through self-comparisons, with harmful material producing inferior feelings. Therefore, adolescents’ mental health depends on social media algorithms and self-selected content.

The online experience for young individuals depends on idealized representations of life and highly curated content called peer-generated content. This situation fuels adolescents’ social comparison theory, particularly when sharing “reels,” which capture exaggerated aspects of their lives. Consequently, peer-generated content creates unrealistic expectations among other peers, leading to feelings of inadequacy (Steers et al., 2014). Furthermore, their feelings of inadequacy on social media depend on consuming content from platforms with unattainable ideals, particularly from the pervasive influence of influencers and celebrities. On the contrary, some social media content improves psychological well-being by being informative, inspiring, and creating opportunities for connection and engagement (Steers et al., 2014). Thus, to reduce teenage psychological concerns, digital literacy is needed to choose suitable content and grasp the mental well-being effects of hazardous content.

Cyberbullying, Privacy Concerns on Social Media

Adolescents’ psychological well-being on social platforms relies on cyberbullying and privacy concerns. Active social media use exposes adolescents to online harassment and privacy breaches, causing depression, anxiety, and stress (Brailovskaia et al., 2018). Profound adverse emotions arise whenever adolescents expose personal and sensitive information online, heightening breaches and identity theft risks. Consequently, adolescents fear their information leaking to malicious online peers, leading to misuse and reputation damage. Similarly, Studies show a 37% cyberbullying prevalence, which underlines adolescents’ negative experiences and emotional toll (Hinduja & Patchin, 2019). Therefore, adolescents experience cumulative effects of cyberbullying and privacy concerns, compounding their impact on psychological well-being.

Digital Well-Being, Sleep Disruption, and Public Health Interventions

Active social media use among young individuals increases concerns about digital well-being and its impact on sleeping patterns. Increased screen time contributes to late-night activity and engagement on social media, leading to the concerning sleep disruption trend. Smartphone usage during the hour before bedtime has increased, according to the National Sleep Foundation (2018). This behavior affects 72% of adolescents aged 13-17 whose late-night engagement reduces their sleeping time, leading to insufficient sleep (Woods & Scott, 2016).

Peer Influence, Parental Involvement, and Guidance on Social Media

Heavy social media arises when adolescents succumb to peer pressure regarding social media usage (Woods & Scott, 2016). This behavior emanates from adolescents’ motivation and desire to fit into a peer group and satisfy their needs. Nevertheless, peer dynamics offers an equivocal impact on individuals’ psychological well-being regarding social media usage. Some adolescents receive support and develop a sense of belonging through positive interactions with peers on social media (Radovic et al., 2017). Therefore, adolescents are prone to self-esteem damage following peer pressures compelling conformity to specific lifestyles and unrealistic beauty standards projected on social media.

Statistical findings underscore the peer pressure role in young people’s online behavior, contributing to user patterns and exposure levels. According to research, 68% of young individuals have daily media avenue interactions (Radovic et al., 2017). Adolescents seek media platforms for social connections, support, and peer validation. However, adverse peer pressure on social media contributes to self-esteem by fanning peer comparisons. Facebook and Instagram platforms pressure young users to seek confirmation through upward social comparisons (Vogel et al., 2014). Comparisons on a class basis harm mental well-being, particularly when adolescents seek lifestyle, appearance, and accomplishment gratification (Engeln et al., 2020). Thus, peer pressure offers a multifaceted view, with positive and negative versions affecting individuals’ psychological well-being.

Furthermore, social media’s downsides on adolescents’ depression and self-esteem vary with parental guidance and involvement in browsing activities and patterns. Studies indicate the likelihood of lower adolescents’ negative experiences arising from social media use when parents offer advice, including setting duration limits and mediating critical issues (Livingstone & Third, 2017). Consequently, parental guidance prevents undesirable outcomes in adolescents’ development. According to studies, young individuals avoid compromising their psychological well-being when working under parents and navigating risks in the digital landscape (Livingstone & Third, 2017). Therefore, the parental role is crucial in fostering safe social media usage among young individuals, imparting them open communication, awareness of online risks, and digital literacy.

Also, the fear of missing out (FOMO) contributes to mental health challenges for adolescents engaged on social media platforms. It occurs when young individuals feel alienated and behind their peers on specific activities and experiences on social media platforms. Consequently, adolescents develop anxiety amid powerlessness in witnessing or participating in others’ activities online (Alabri, 2022). Hence, FOMO elicits extreme emotional turmoil among adolescents in their formative years, underlining its impact on their psychological well-being.

Benefits of Active Engagement

Some online activities and experiences benefit adolescents by improving their well-being. Those participating in creative content creation and supporting communities benefit from active social media use as it boosts their self-esteem, improving their psychological well-being. Studies reported increased feelings of connection among 60% of surveyed adolescents using social media platforms for communication and social interaction (Jan et al., 2017). It underlines social media’s benefits in boosting adolescents’ self-esteem by expanding their network and enhancing feelings of belonging. Additionally, Radovic et al. (2017) reported reduced depressive symptoms among young individuals participating in online communities on social media. It reported a 38% decrease in depressive symptoms over six months for adolescents participating in groups and forums championing community welfare, hobbies, and shared interests (Radovic et al., 2017).

Interventional, Coping, and Educational Strategies

Studies support adopting digital literacy efforts in alleviating mental issues such as depressive symptoms among young individuals (Radovic et al., 2017). Consequently, adolescents manage online experiences using critical content evaluation after attaining the necessary skills from digital literacy programs initiated in schools. According to the research, young individuals boosted their self-esteem by 15% and reduced cyberbullying instances by 25% among learners equipped with digital literacy skills from school-based programs (Hinduja & Patchin, 2019). Hence, the programs strengthen adolescents’ sense of control online, leading to independence in decision-making and alleviating them from depressive symptoms.


This comprehensive literature review focuses on adolescents’ psychological well-being, particularly depressive symptoms, and self-esteem, when using social media platforms actively. It offers a multifaceted understanding of social media’s effects on teens by analyzing and synthesizing existing research. Furthermore, the review provides a theoretical framework capturing the social comparison and uses and gratification theories for guiding the exploration. Some studies focus on the potential implications of media platforms’ effects on self-worth, while others underline increased self-esteem when engaging on social media platforms. Nevertheless, complexities related to social media’s effects on psychological well-being vary with the nature of the content, gender, social media platform, digital literacy, parental involvement, and public health intervention efforts. Furthermore, adolescents’ psychological well-being on social media relies on correlational factors, including screen time, peer influence, coping mechanisms, and privacy concerns arising from ethical considerations.


Stakeholders should consider creating supportive online communities for adolescents, offering opportunities for positive online interactions and emotional support to alleviate possible self-esteem and depressive symptoms. These programs should be available in homes and schools to deliver appropriate resources for adolescents showing signs of distress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem after online encounters. Furthermore, parental supervision and public health actions reduce children’s internet vulnerabilities in neighborhoods and homes. Finally, children must be able to identify internet safety concerns and prevent psychological disorders. This requires digital literacy programmers in schools and neighborhoods to help teens navigate the internet by critically evaluating content. Thus, Fostering online support, mental health programs, parental advice, and digital literacy are essential for protecting teenagers’ mental health in social situations.

Future research should focus on the dynamic nature of social media and emerging risks to adolescents’ psychological well-being. These studies should explore emerging social media platforms and trends that shape teens’ online interactions. Additionally, future exploration should adopt a longitudinal survey for monitoring social media effects over time against implications brought by the ever-changing digital environment.


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