Does passively browsing through a friend’s fabulous Instagram feed automatically make teens feel worse about their own lives? Not uniformly, a new study concludes, finding also that teens who bring a level of critical analysis to the experience seem to be more resilient in the face of social media’s pressures than teens who believe the happy images are indicative of a happier life. As researchers continue to assess the impact of social media on the social-emotional lives of teens, this new work adds fuel to the argument that parents and educators have an essential role to play in helping teens develop the literacy skills they need to navigate their digital worlds.
In the study, researcher Emily Weinstein assessed the emotions of more than 500 adolescents before and after they browsed an Instagram simulation that included two feeds, for a male and a female teen. Weinstein also assessed whether and to what extent teens were comparing their lives to the lives portrayed in the Instagram galleries.