I am excited to share my new paper on “Social Media and Change in Psychological Distress Over Time“.

Based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the longest-running, longitudinal, household, panel survey in the world, I find that home internet and social media use are associated with reduced psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, over time. From one year to the next, social media users are 63% more likely to avoid the serious psychological distress associated with major depression and anxiety disorders. But… psychological distress is contagious on social media. The data includes surveys with siblings, parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, grandparents, etc., and if their mental health declines over time, so does yours, but only if you are both on social media. Works in the other direction too. Best case, social media use reduces the risk of serious psychological distress, worst case, it has a trivial relationship.


This article tests the relationship between information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the Internet, cell phones, and social media, and change over time in psychological distress (PD) and risk of serious psychological distress (SPD) associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Using a longitudinal panel design, survey data from a representative sample of American adults, findings revealed that home Internet and social network site (SNS) use are associated with decreased PD over time. Having extended family who are also Internet users further decreases PD. PD increased or decreased in relation to change in the PD of extended family who also use SNSs. For most people, ICT substantively reduce PD; in rare cases, an extreme spike in PD of extended family also on SNSs, there was a trivial increase to the risk of SPD. PD did not change when extended family not on social media experienced a change in their PD.

And a nice overview article by my College on “Depression Is Contagious: How Social Media Really Affects Your Mental Health

New paper released today with my long time friend and collaborator Alexandra Marin. Network Instability in Times of Stability, the alternative title might have been, “All Your Networks be Unstable: Studying Instability Has Given us a False Sense of Stability”. Perhaps predictable, but notable insights, personal characteristics (of you and your close friends) do not predict tie dormancy, or frequency or medium of communication, it’s all about the network (geographic and emotionally closeness, role, highly supportive, homophily, and embeddedness).

Personal networks undergo change in response to major life course events. Individual, relational, and network characteristics that influence network instability in the absence of a significant life transition/crisis are less understood. We focus on those ties that transition from active to dormant. Because the shift to dormancy is often interpreted as a reduction in support or social capital, it is considered problematic. This study is based on longitudinal survey data of middle‐class adults who did not undergo life changes. Even in this context of relative stability, support networks experience rates of dormancy similar to those observed during periods of major upheaval. Tie dormancy is unrelated to individual characteristics, network size and density, or homophily along dimensions other than sex. Frequency and medium of communication are particularly notable as factors that were not related to tie dormancy. Ties were less likely to become dormant if they were geographically or emotionally close, immediate kin or neighbors, highly supportive, the same sex, or more embedded in the network. These findings provide context for how support networks operate when not buffeted by exogenous forces. They provide a baseline for understanding the impact on networks of transitions, trauma, new media, and difficult life circumstances.

Nineteen years ago Barry and I published our first, of what would become many papers together. “Living Networked On and Offline,” published in Contemporary Sociology, set much of the foundation for our work over the following two decades. We talked about a paradigm shift in how the Internet was shaping community, we explored the fallacy of separating ties into the dichotomy of online/offline relations, glocalization, and the groundwork for the concept of networked individualism.

We are back with a new installment in the latest issue of Contemporary Sociology. “Lost and Saved… Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media.” Again, we talk about how new technologies are (and this time, are not) responsible for a paradigm shift in how we think about community. We take on the hype about how social media is destroying community, and recent commentary critical of the impact we have had on the study and conceptualization of community. In the 15 years since Barry and I last published together, our thoughts on community branched in different ways. This is also our attempt at unifying our view of community in an age of social media and digital mobility, including recognizing that as community is increasingly subject to ‘relational persistence’ and ‘pervasive awareness’ it has characteristics of both traditional community and networked individualism.

You can find an open access copy here.