Publication Date

2012-06-26

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2012-06-26

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-06-01

First Committee Member

Jutta Joormann

Second Committee Member

Michael McCullough

Third Committee Member

Debra Lieberman

Fourth Committee Member

Jill Ehrenreich May

Fifth Committee Member

Edward Rappaport

Abstract

Recent research posits that it is not necessarily the immediate response to stressful life events that is associated with an increased risk for the onset and recurrence of emotional disorders, but the way in which people regulate the ensuing emotions. A tendency to respond to negative mood states with perseverative thinking, such as rumination, has been shown to increase the risk for emotional disorders. The use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, may provide new means of triggering and prolonging perseverative thinking, exacerbating negative mood and negatively affecting adjustment following a stressful life event. Results from a pilot study confirmed that Facebook use may indeed provide important triggers for engaging in maladaptive emotion regulation. This study builds on the pilot data and strives to examine how individual differences in emotion regulation, specifically self-report measures and biological correlates of rumination, are related to Facebook use following a relationship breakup. Undergraduate participants completed a four-day experience sampling study assessing their general Facebook use, emotion regulation strategies while using Facebook, and affect levels before and after logging on to Facebook. Long-term adjustment was also assessed by examining changes in depression and anxiety symptoms at a one-month follow-up. Results suggested that Facebook use was related to emotional adjustment, both in the short- and long-term. Interestingly, whereas rumination on Facebook did not mediate the relation between Facebook use and short-term changes in affect, it did mediate the relation between Facebook use and depression and anxiety levels one month later. Preliminary findings indicated that differences in Facebook activity were, in fact, related to changes in sympathetic activation, and that variations in biological reactivity were related to long-term emotional adjustment. Explicit self-esteem moderated levels of Facebook rumination, whereas implicit self-esteem and social comparison did not. Results from this study hold important implications for the use of social networking sites on emotion regulation, indicating that rumination on Facebook may impede recovery or prolong symptoms following a stressful life event. Future studies should continue to examine mediators and moderators of Facebook rumination and subsequent effects on emotional adjustment.

Keywords

emotion regulation; rumination; social networking; Facebook; emotional adjustment

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