Some may scoff at adolescents' use of social media networks as they pine for likes, but a new study suggests that using the photo-sharing app Instagram can actually strengthen the closeness of their friendships which in turn may help curb depression.
"This age group may be particularly at risk for the impact of Instagram, given the increasing popularity of Instagram in adolescence and given the increase of depressive symptoms during this stage of life," said researcher Eline Frison from University of Leuven in Belgium.
"This study offers practitioners greater insight into the outcomes of adolescents' Instagram use," Frison said.
The findings are scheduled to be presented at the 67th annual International Communication Association conference to be held at San Diego, California from May 25-29, 2017.
From 2013-2014, Frison set up a large-scale study to investigate the relationships between adolescents' social networking site use and their well-being.
Students filled out paper-and-pencil surveys between six-month periods.
The surveys asked students about their use of social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, and their well-being (depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, loneliness).
The data analysed revealed that using Instagram at one point was related to increased closeness to friends (perception that they are appreciated and loved by their friends) six months later, which in turn was related to lower levels of depression.
However, the researchers cautioned that if the use of the photo sharing app fails to stimulate the feeling closeness to friends, it could be harmful in the long run.