Document Type

Honors Thesis




Cynthia Erdley

Committee Members

Julie DellaMattera, Rebecca Schwartz-Mette

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


Adolescents are highly susceptible to developing depression, given the wide range of social and biological changes that happen during this developmental period. Many late adolescents transition to college, and this experience is associated with more responsibility, higher academic demands, and gains in independence from family, which have been associated with higher levels of depression. Most adolescents today use social media, and this has been linked to many positive effects, such as exploring one’s identity and staying in contact with peers. However, social media use also has been associated with negative effects, such as body-image issues and increased depression levels. The unexpected occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic has also been linked with higher levels of mental distress for late adolescents. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between social media use and depression symptoms in late adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic and currently. Participants were 208 first-year college students who responded to an online survey assessing their social media use, depressive symptomology, and problematic internet use both during the COVID-19 pandemic and currently. Results indicated that there were no significant correlations between social media use and depression symptoms at either time. Notably, depression symptoms scores were above the clinical cutoff in both time periods and did not differ significantly. Participants reported a significant decrease in problematic internet usage between early in the pandemic and currently. Overall, results suggested that there was significant depressive symptomology during the COVID-19 pandemic that has carried over to the current timeframe. However, as problematic internet use has decreased, it is possible that this might contribute to reduced depression symptoms in adolescents in the future.