The Role of Envy in Linking Active and Passive Social Media use to Memory Functioning

Psychol Pop Media Cult. 2022 Jan;11(1):80-89. doi: 10.1037/ppm0000318. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


Social media use has previously been shown to have negative implications for cognition. Scarce research has examined underlying pathways through which social media use may influence cognition. One potential pathway involves the consequences of social comparison, such that those who use social media more frequently may feel worse about themselves and more envious toward others. In turn, these negative socioemotional states could compromise memory. Further, whether an individual uses social media actively or passively may moderate these associations. Using an online adult lifespan sample (n=592), the current cross-sectional study examined whether socioemotional consequences of social comparison (self-esteem and envy) mediated relationships between social media use and memory (everyday memory failures and episodic memory) and whether active/passive use moderated these associations. Mediation models revealed that higher envy, but not lower self-esteem, partially explained the relationship between higher social media use and more self-reported everyday memory failures. Neither envy nor self-esteem mediated the relationship between higher social media use and lower objective episodic memory performance. Additionally, higher social media use was associated with higher envy to a greater extent for active users compared to passive users. These findings may suggest that high social media use has negative ramifications for both subjective and objective memory and that increased feelings of envy may partially explain these effects for subjective, but not objective, memory.

Keywords: Active/Passive Use; Envy; Memory; Self-Esteem; Social Media.