Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Regina Miranda

Committee Members

Angelo DiBello

Tracy Dennis

Subject Categories

Communication Technology and New Media | Psychology | Social Media


social media, defeat, social comparison, problematic social media use, social media addiction


Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) have steadily risen over the past two decades. The simultaneous dramatic increase in social media use has fueled concerns that using social media may be contributing to suicide risk. Although an emerging body of evidence reveals associations between certain patterns of social media use and SITBs, most research studies have not been designed to assess the temporal order of these variables and have neglected to investigate mechanisms underlying such associations. As a result, whether and how social media use may be conferring suicide risk remains unclear. To address this gap, the present study examined a process by which social media use may begin to confer suicide risk among those exhibiting one specific pattern of maladaptive social media use – problematic social media use (PSMU). Specifically, we tested an explanatory mechanism (i.e., social comparison) through which social media use may impact a theoretically based predictor of suicide ideation (i.e., defeat), proposing that this indirect effect may be stronger for those who engage in PSMU.

To examine our hypotheses, we conducted an intensive longitudinal study using ecological momentary assessment methods. A diverse sample of 99 smartphone users (78% cisgender women), ages 18-29 (M = 23.14, SD = 3.20) was recruited from a public college and the greater New York City area. For 15 days, participants completed five daily brief assessments via text in which they repeatedly reported their most recent amount of social media use, engagement in social comparison during that use, and present-moment feelings of defeat. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling.

We found a significant indirect effect of social media use on defeat via social comparison on social media at the within-person level, effect = .003, bootstrapped SE = .001, CI = .002-.004, p < .01, but not at the between-person level. This indirect effect was slightly stronger at higher (versus lower) levels of PSMU at the within-person level, but not at the between-person level.

These results suggest that after a person spends more time than they typically do on social media, they experience greater defeat than usual, partly due to engaging in more social comparison on social media than usual. This effect is very slightly stronger for people who exhibit higher (versus lower) levels of PSMU because social comparison has a slightly more negative impact on defeat for these individuals. Based on these findings, further examination of the impact of patterns of social media use on defeat and on SITBs is warranted. Elucidating the specific user- and technology-centered social media factors that may confer risk for SITBs will help inform interventions that promote using social media in more adaptive ways.