Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been the focus of research within the past decade due to concerns about Facebook addiction and Instagram addiction. Social-media-related disorders have been researched for over a decade. Findings related to user well-being and more specific factors related to well-being have also been closely examined, such as self-esteem, emotional support, and social connection. This article will outline a few of these studies and conclude with suggestions for the practitioners seeking to address these issues in clinical care delivery.
Social media addiction may be associated with the time spent using the sites. Early studies with students found that those with low self-esteem tend to spend more time on Facebook (Kalpidou et al., 2011). Other research has found that addictive social media use is related to low self-esteem. A Facebook addiction scale was developed in 2017 by Andreassen and colleagues. Bergagna and Tazghini, 2018 reported that spending long periods on Facebook was associated with self-esteem.
Low Self-Esteem & Social Comparison
Social comparison theory is often an element evaluated based on the work of Leon Festinger in 1954. Social comparison theory centers on the idea that individuals are driven to gain accurate self-evaluations by comparing their life with the public portrayal of other people’s lives. Social media addiction studies often include measures of social comparison as indicators of self-esteem.
The suggested dynamic is that spending extended periods on social media may occur because users with low self-esteem engage in social comparison (i.e., searching for information about others), fueling a greater frequency of use. Social comparison, especially frequent social comparison, is posited to adversely impact self-esteem and trigger depressive symptoms (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015; Tartaglia, 2016).
While research has examined the relationship between well-being and the use of Facebook, only a few studies have compared Facebook addiction with Instagram addiction.
Recent Study of Facebook Addiction Versus Instagram Addiction
In a recent study of Facebook and Instagram addiction, Limniou and colleagues (2022) investigated differences between the two social media sites concerning user well-being and problematic use. Factors such as the number of “likes” received, the total number of Facebook friends and Instagram followers, the importance users place on the number of “likes,” and the total number of friends/followers were examined among a sample of 69 Facebook users and 66 Instagram users. Although the study involves a small sample size, a few trends may be worth noting as this literature evolves.
Results indicated that Instagram addiction was more problematic than Facebook addiction.
- Instagram users enjoyed looking at different pictures/images, but Facebook users did not use this platform to just search for funny content. Instead, Facebook users aimed to expand their friendships with others online, which might counteract feelings of depression.
The differences among Instagram followers included that:
- They showed a higher frequency of use
- The increase in the number of likes was related to low self-esteem.
The number of likes was unrelated to loneliness in either group.
Limniou and colleagues discussed their belief that the differences between Facebook addiction and Instagram addiction may be related to the unique functions of each platform. They offered the possibility that, being an image-based social media platform, Instagram users may not feel an increase in self-esteem based on the number of likes they receive. The current study may confirm earlier studies described above, wherein the number of likes on Facebook is negatively related to a Facebook addiction. While it may seem obvious that a high number of likes on Facebook lead to increased self-esteem, the important issue to address as clinicians working with individuals is how damaging it can be for them to repeatedly check and compare these numbers.
Instagram Addiction: Worse Outcomes
The researchers suggest that Instagram addiction may do more harm than Facebook addiction because the user tends to engage in a higher frequency of use. Treatment providers may want to assess Facebook and Instagram use patterns over time to provide interventions that can enhance self-esteem. They may want to suggest replacements with non-social media behaviors and activities.
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