Need for Status: An Evolutionary Explanation for Mental Health Issues from Social Media

Kaylee Aaron, Aris Karagiorgakis, Department of Psychology, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, 2201 University Dr, Lemont Furnace, PA 15456.

Although social media plays a significant role in many people’s lives, research has found that social media can have a negative impact on one’s mental health. Previous studies have offered theories to help explain this relationship, but none have explored this link from an evolutionary perspective. According to evolutionary theory, human beings have a need to strive for status, which can be achieved through social comparison- one moves up in status when making downward comparisons and down when making upward comparisons. Social media exposes users to a disproportionate amount of unrealistic upward comparisons, by virtue of the positively skewed, idealistic content posted by others. Consequently, those who spend more time on social media engage in more upward social comparisons, which could lower one’s perceived status. The repetitive reinforcing of one’s perceived lower status may be the driving force behind the negative mental health consequences that have been reported. The current study investigated the relationship between social media use and depressive symptoms, while also measuring two factors important to evolutionary theory, social comparison and status striving. We hypothesized that students who spend more time on social media will show a decrease in well-being and depression, especially for those who score high on status striving and social comparison. We also hypothesized that those who score high in status striving will score high in social comparison. Eighty-four participants received a survey measuring social media use, well-being, depression, status striving and social comparison. Results showed a positive correlation between social media use and (a) status striving, (b) social comparison, and (c) depression; and between social comparison and (a) status striving, and (b) depression. This exploratory study suggests an evolutionary explanation may make a promising contribution to our understanding of the relationship between social media usage and mental health, and more research is warranted.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Kaylee Aaron

Institution: Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 10
Date/Time: Wed 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 6653