Mindsets Matter: How Beliefs About Facebook Moderate the Association Between Time Spent and Well-Being

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)


“Time spent on platform” is a widely used measure in many studies examining social media use and well-being, yet the current literature presents unresolved findings about the relationship between time on platform and well-being. In this paper, we consider the moderating effect of people’s mindsets about social media — whether they think a platform is good or bad for themselves and for society more generally. Combining survey responses from 29,284 participants in 15 countries with server-logged data of Facebook use, we found that when people thought that Facebook was good for them and for society, time spent on the platform was not significantly associated with well-being. Conversely, when they thought Facebook was bad, greater time spent was associated with lower well-being. On average, there was a small, negative correlation between time spent and well-being and the causal direction is not known. Beliefs had a stronger moderating relationship when time-spent measures were self-reported rather than coming from server logs. We discuss potential mechanisms for these results and implications for future research on well-being and social media use.

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