Extraversion moderates the relationship between social media use and depression
Background: There is evidence that extraversion and associated frequent personal and digital social contacts are associated with mental health, reflected in reduced risk for anxiety or depression. However, excessive social media use (SMU) has been related to a decrease of mental health. We test how extraversion moderates the effect of SMU on anxiety and depression in times of social distancing. Methods: Data were collected with an app-based survey combined with passive sensing of social media usage time. We analyzed SMU (objective average duration of communication app usage) and cross-sectional questionnaire data from 486 adults (mean age = 42.42). Using multiple regression models, we tested how SMU, extraversion and their interaction relate to individual depression and anxiety scores. Results: Depression scores were associated with a higher SMU and lower extraversion. There was a significant positive relationship between SMU and extraversion that predicted higher depression scores. Limitations: In the present sample, there is a recruitment bias since only data from smartphones running iOS were included. Future research should also take a closer look at the purpose behind SMU. Conclusions: We conclude that extraversion might be a protective factor for depression which can turn into a harmful one if it is related to higher SMU. Thus, the interplay between SMU and extraversion needs to be considered when predicting individual differences in mental health.
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