2024 National Survey

A Double-edged Sword: How Diverse Communities of Young People Think About the Multifaceted Relationship Between Social Media and Mental Health

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2024 National Survey of Teens and Young Adults Reveals Important Benefits and Risks of Social Media for Youth Mental Health and Well-Being

Findings show that for many BIPOC & LGBTQ+ young people, social media can be a positive tool to connect people with shared experiences and promote mental well-being

Teens and young adults — especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ young people — bring their own unique lived experiences to social media spaces and, as a result, have different experiences with the content and communities they find there. The third installment of a national survey developed by Hopelab and Common Sense Media, and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, shows that while social media continues to pose risks, it also plays a beneficial role in supporting the mental health and well-being of young people — especially those from marginalized communities.

The study, “A Double-Edged Sword: How Diverse Communities of Young People Think About the Multifaceted Relationship Between Social Media and Mental Health,” was co-created with young people, who provided direction and input on the survey content and worked with the research team to prioritize and interpret results. The study was conducted from October 4 through November 14, 2023, with 1,274 young people ages 14-22, including oversamples of those who are LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx.

Findings provide insights into how teens and young adults experience life online, with a particular emphasis on social media and youth well-being. They examine the differences in experiences between teens (ages 14-17) and young adults (ages 18-22), variations across racial and ethnic groups, and comparisons among those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who do not.

Building upon data trends from prior surveys released in 2018 and 2021, these findings explore the unique and nuanced roles social media and technology play in the well-being of today’s young people.

Group of multiracial teenage students using mobile phones on school Young friends watching social media content on smartphones
Most conversations and headlines surrounding social media and youth mental health focus solely on the harms, portraying young people as passive consumers. This research shows that it's much more complex. If we truly want to improve the well-being of young people, we need to listen to their experiences and ensure that we do not inadvertently remove access to crucial positive benefits, particularly among Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ young people.
Amy Green, Head of Research, Hopelab
Multiracial group of teenagers using their cell phones at high school.

Research key findings

  • Key Finding 1

    Depressive symptoms among young people are down from pandemic highs, but comparable to already-elevated 2018 levels.

  • Key Finding 2

    Young people experience both costs and benefits from their use of social media, and many implement strategies to manage negative aspects.

  • Key Finding 3

    Most young people encounter negative attacks on identity and body shaming comments on social media, as well as identity-affirming and body-positive comments.

  • Key Finding 4

    Black young people value connecting with others about mental health, exploring professional and educational opportunities, and expressing their creativity on social media more than white youth. Black and Latinx young people are also more likely to face negative experiences online that lead them to take breaks from social media accounts.

  • Key Finding 5

    Social media is a double-edged sword for LGBTQ+ youth, offering both important opportunities for support and identity affirmation, and greater exposure to harassment and stress.

  • Key Finding 6

    Young adults see more downsides to social media than teens do, and they also do more to manage their engagement and exposure.

  • Key Finding 7

    Young people with depressive symptoms are more vulnerable to social comparison and pressure to show their best selves on social media. However, they are also more likely to find resources to support their well-being and to curate their feeds in response to content they don’t want to see.

Read more on social media and mental health

Social media is fully ingrained in young people’s everyday lives, shaping how they connect, communicate, learn, and interact with the world. Although concerns about the adverse effects of social media on young people are widespread, it is crucial to acknowledge the benefits it can offer as well.

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Teenagers today are increasingly seeking mental health support from friends, family, digital platforms, and social media, instead of traditional resources. Hear from Gen Z podcaster, Gael Aitor about the role identity plays in social media content.