Where it Hurts the Most: Peer Interactions on Social Media and in Person are Differentially Associated with Emotional Reactivity and Sustained Affect Among Adolescent Girls

Res Child Adolesc Psychopathol. 2021 Feb;49(2):155-167. doi: 10.1007/s10802-020-00725-5. Epub 2020 Nov 27.


Social media (SM) use has increasingly changed how adolescents interact with their peers, yet it remains unclear how peer interactions on social media differ from in-person peer interactions. The current study evaluated whether the context (social media or in-person) of adolescent girls' worst and best peer interactions influenced their emotional responses to peer interactions and sustained affect in everyday life. In this study, a total of 110 adolescent girls (11-13 years old; mean age = 12.28 years) completed ecological momentary assessment (EMA) for 16 days following an initial baseline visit. Participants reported their worst (i.e., most negative) and best (i.e., most positive) interactions with peers since the last prompt, the context in which it occurred (social media or in-person), emotional reactivity during the interaction, and momentary affect. Multilevel models indicated that negative peer interactions that occurred on social media were more likely to be associated with sustained negative affect, but not negative emotional reactivity during the interaction. Positive interactions on social media were more likely to be associated with both lower positive emotional reactivity and lower sustained positive affect. Findings indicate that peer interactions on social media may differentially impact girls' emotional reactivity and sustained affect, particularly for positive interactions with peers. Findings highlight that social media and in-person peer interactions may impact how girls experience and respond to positive and negative peer interactions, which may have implications for peer relationships and onset of psychopathology during this vulnerable period.

Keywords: Adolescence; Affect; Emotional reactivity; Girls; Peers; Social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Peer Group
  • Social Media*