Volume 91, Issue 6 p. 2141-2159
Empirical Article

Getting Fewer “Likes” Than Others on Social Media Elicits Emotional Distress Among Victimized Adolescents

Hae Yeon Lee

Corresponding Author

Hae Yeon Lee

University of Texas at Austin

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Hae Yeon Lee or David S. Yeager, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000, Austin, Texas 78712-0187. Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected] or [email protected].

Search for more papers by this author
Jeremy P. Jamieson

Jeremy P. Jamieson

University of Rochester

Search for more papers by this author
Harry T. ReisChristopher G. Beevers

Christopher G. Beevers

University of Texas at Austin

Search for more papers by this author
Robert A. Josephs

Robert A. Josephs

University of Texas at Austin

Search for more papers by this author
Michael C. Mullarkey

Michael C. Mullarkey

University of Texas at Austin

Search for more papers by this author
Joseph M. O’Brien

Joseph M. O’Brien

University of Texas at Austin

Search for more papers by this author
David S. Yeager

Corresponding Author

David S. Yeager

University of Texas at Austin

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Hae Yeon Lee or David S. Yeager, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000, Austin, Texas 78712-0187. Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected] or [email protected].

Search for more papers by this author
First published: 06 September 2020
Citations: 46

Support for this research came in part from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, R01 HD084772-01 awarded to authors, P2CHD042849 awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin, a William T. Grant Foundation scholars award granted to the corresponding author; and the Society for Research in Child Development Student and Early Career Council Dissertation Funding Award awarded to the first author. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funders. The authors are grateful to the students, parents, and faculty who participated in this research, and also to Dr. Andre Audette, Mallory Dobias, and undergraduate research assistants for their assistance in data collection.

Abstract

Three studies examined the effects of receiving fewer signs of positive feedback than others on social media. In Study 1, adolescents (N = 613, Mage = 14.3 years) who were randomly assigned to receive few (vs. many) likes during a standardized social media interaction felt more strongly rejected, and reported more negative affect and more negative thoughts about themselves. In Study 2 (N = 145), negative responses to receiving fewer likes were associated with greater depressive symptoms reported day-to-day and at the end of the school year. Study 3 (N = 579) replicated Study 1’s main effect of receiving fewer likes and showed that adolescents who already experienced peer victimization at school were the most vulnerable. The findings raise the possibility that technology which makes it easier for adolescents to compare their social status online—even when there is no chance to share explicitly negative comments—could be a risk factor that accelerates the onset of internalizing symptoms among vulnerable youth.