Comparing the effects of tailored behavioral feedback and descriptive social norms intervention messages on excessive social media use



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Excessive internet use can have various consequences such as low job performance, poor academic performance, and issues in interpersonal relationships. Previous research in the area has focused on treating this issue after it reaches the level of a diagnosable addiction disorder. However, it is important to understand whether excessive use can be discouraged and potentially reduced before users develop an addiction disorder. Currently, one of the most popular uses of the internet is social media; therefore, the current study specifically targeted excessive social media use. In an effort to discourage excessive social media use, two different message intervention approaches were implemented. A behavioral feedback message addressed excessive use at the individual level by providing information about the potential consequences from their current amount of social media use. A social norms message provided general information about the average adult’s social media use. These interventions were compared to a control message (no information about excessive use) as well as a generic consequences message (general consequences one may experience from excessive use). Using a multiple regression analysis, the study found that those who read the behavioral feedback message were more likely to report that they believed that they spend too much time on social media. In contrast, a second multiple regression analysis found that those who read the social norms message were more likely to report that they intended to reduce their social media use in the future. In the domain of social media, it seems that behavioral feedback has more of an effect on attitudes, while social norms has more of an effect on intended future behavior. These findings do not indicate whether one type of intervention is more favorable than the other; rather, it seems that the two interventions may be working through different mechanisms, such that one may result in attitude change before behavior change, while the other may result in the opposite.



Social media, Social norms, Behavioral feedback, Intervention

Graduation Month



Master of Science


Department of Psychological Sciences

Major Professor

Laura A. Brannon