Social Media

Here are the two questions I have been studying:


1) Is social media a major contributor to the rise of teen anxiety and depression that began in the early 2010s?

  • Haidt, J. (2021). The Dangerous Experiment on Teen Girls. The Atlantic. This essay gives a narrative overview of the case that social media is a major cause of harm to teen girls.
  • Haidt, J. (2022). Testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee. This 12 page document lays out the evidence point by point, drawing on the two collaborative reviews below. Here is the video of my testimony (starting at 50:30).
  • Haidt, J., & Twenge, J. (ongoing). Adolescent mood disorders since 2010: A collaborative review. This document collects and organizes dozens of published studies documenting changes in adolescent mental health in the USA and UK in the 21st century
  • Haidt, J., & Twenge, J. (ongoing). Social media and mental health: A collaborative review. This document collects and organizes dozens of published studies that address the question of whether social media is a major cause of the rapid rise in adolescent depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide in the USA and UK since the early 2010s.


2) Is social media causing an increase in political dysfunction?


Here are my academic articles on social media and teen mental health:


  • Haidt, J. (2020). A guilty verdict. Nature, 578, 226-227. [Nature forum debate on social media and mental health, paired with Nicholas Allen].
  • Twenge, J. Haidt, J., Joiner, T., & Campbell, W. K. (2020). Underestimating digital media harm. Nature Human Behavior. [This is a response to Orben & Przybylski, 2019, who had reported that the association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use was no larger than the association of well-being with “eating potatoes.” We show that Orben and Przybylski made six analytical decisions that resulted in lower effect sizes, and that when you zoom in on social media for girls, and only control for demographic variables, not psychological ones, the effect sizes are much larger.]
  • Twenge, J., Blake, A. B., Haidt, J., & Campbell, W. K. (2020). Commentary: Screens, teens, and psychological well-being: Evidence from three time-use-diary studies. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, Article 181
  • Twenge, J., Haidt, J., Blake, A. B., McAllister, C., Lemon, H., & Le Roy, A. (2021). Worldwide increases in adolescent loneliness. Journal of Adolescence [We found the only global measure of adolescent mental health, buried in the PISA dataset. When you look at the 6 variables related to loneliness at school, you find a global increase in loneliness that begins between 2012 and 2016. See our summary of the findings in this New York Times op-ed]
  • Twenge, J. M., Haidt, J., Lozano, J. & Cummins, K. M. (2022). Specification curve analysis shows that social media use is linked to poor mental health, especially among girls. Acta Psychologica, 224.


Here are some additional resources:

  • A Youtube playlist of my talks on social media’s effects on teen mental health and democratic norms and institutions. Plus a few comedy clips on the topic.
  • The Ledger of Harms — a list of research publications on seven different areas of harm caused by social media. At the Center for Humane Technology, where I am an advisor.
  • Haidt, J. & Bentov, Y (ongoing). Free Play and Mental Health: A Collaborative Review. (This document collects and organizes the published studies addressing the question: would more free play, especially in elementary school, reduce rates of depression and anxiety disorders? The decline of free play may be a large part of the backstory of the teen mental health crisis that began around 2012. This is the beginning of a collaborative review; we have not yet sent it out for contributions and critiques from other scholars) 
  • The Social Dilemma, a documentary about the effects of social media on mental health and society.
  • Psychology of Technology Institute, where I am on the scientific advisory board.


On the Joe Rogan show, 2019, I laid out the evidence that social media plus overprotection are the two major causes of the teen mental health crisis that began around 2012. We talk about what we’re doing with our own kids. I argue for the importance of free range childhoods; Joe disagrees.


On Amanpour & Co, 2022, I talked with Hari Srinivasan about how social media is causing “structural stupidity” and damaging American democracy: