Do Age & SES Matter? A Mix-method Exploration of Social Media Use during Good & Bad Times

Alumna Linda Charmaraman, PhD (NC 2013) and researchers studied differences in the utilization of social media and mobile phone technology by age and socioeconomic status (SES) among adolescents. The investigators recruited a diverse sample of more than 2,000 young adults to participate in an online survey.  They subsequently invited the young adults to serve in a follow-up interview. Findings revealed that young adults and upper-level college students were more likely to be unable to live without their cell phones or their short message service (SMS) devices. Freshmen and adolescents have a greater likelihood to share bad experiences on Facebook, in comparison to older counterparts. Middle school students, particularly the most disadvantaged youth, were more likely to use Twitter to communicate about social event and bad days. Similarly, adolescents were more likely to socialize using Twitter. Older participants reported greater usage of SMS and cell phones for fear of missing out. Higher SES was associated with larger online friendship networks. Understanding patterns of social media and mobile phone utilization by age and SES subgroups have implications to tailoring online health interventions, promoting healthier social media communities, and contributing to academic and mental health outcomes.