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Social Media Use and Social Connectedness in Adolescents: The Positives and the Potential Pitfalls

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2014

Kelly A. Allen*
The Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Tracii Ryan
Department of Psychology, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
DeLeon L. Gray
College of Education North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Dennis M. McInerney
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China
Lea Waters
The Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Address for correspondence: Kelly A. Allen, Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Toorak College, PO BOX 150, Mount Eliza VIC 3930, Australia. Email:
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As social media use is rising among adolescents, the issue of whether this use leads to positive or negative outcomes warrants greater understanding. This article critically reviews the literature related to this important topic. Specifically, we examine how social media use affects social connectedness in terms of three elements of adolescent development: sense of belonging, psychosocial wellbeing, and identity development and processes. Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism. This article contributes to ongoing discourse in the area of educational and developmental psychology, and has implications for researchers and practitioners working with adolescents.

Copyright © Australian Psychological Society Ltd 2014 

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