Document Type

Honors Thesis




Cynthia Erdley

Committee Members

Julie DellaMattera, Shannon McCoy, Mollie Ruben, Emily Scarpulla

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Winter 12-2020


Social media use has been linked to a wide variety of both positive effects, such as improved ability to share and understand the feelings of others and involvement in philanthropic activities, but it has also been associated with negative effects, including cyberbullying and low self-esteem. Today's adolescents have grown up as digital natives and have deemed social media as an essential way to connect with peers and develop relationships. These relationships can play a critical role in adolescents’ development of important prosocial skills, such as empathy. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between social media use and empathy in late adolescents.Seventy-six late adolescents, ages 18 to 19, completed an online survey assessing their social media use, cyberbullying and cyber victimization history, and empathy levels. Results indicated that the frequency of social media use is positively correlated with increased personal distress during interpersonal conflict, a factor of empathy. Findings also revealed that active use of social media was positively correlated with personal distress, though this was true only for males. Results showed that that being an active user of social media and the fantasy subscale (the ability to transpose oneself into the feelings of fictitious characters) of empathy were negatively correlated for females only. Overall, results suggested that the use of social media is particularly associated with feelings of personal distress. These feelings, in turn, may promote empathic behavior in late adolescents.