Term of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

Ryan Couillou


LGBTQ+ individuals face unique risk factors for mental health difficulties, such as low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is associated with increased internalizing symptoms of mental health disorders such as suicidality, Major Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Social media usage, which is growing rapidly across the world, is also associated with low self-esteem. For LGBTQ+ individuals, who often experience lower self-esteem than cisgender, heterosexual individuals, this association may be particularly detrimental to mental health. However, social media use has benefits such as increased group membership, which may be particularly salient for minoritized groups. No known studies explored whether these benefits mitigate the negative effects of social media use for minority groups such as LGBTQ+ individuals. This study attempted to fill this important gap in the literature. It sought to answer the following questions: (1) is there a negative association between social media use and self-esteem? (2) does social media group membership moderate this association? (3) does LGBTQ+ status further impact these relationships? and (4) does rurality further impact these relationships? Consistent with previous literature (Chou & Edge, 2012; Feinstein et al., 2013; Vogel et al., 2014), it was hypothesized that social media use would be significantly associated with lower self-esteem. It was also hypothesized that social media group membership would moderate the association between social media use and self-esteem. The current study further aimed to explore relationships between LGBTQ+ status, social media, rurality, and self-esteem. As there is no prior research on these relationships, no directional hypotheses were proposed. The current study explored potential moderating effects of LGBTQ+ status and rurality on the moderation of the association between self-esteem and social media use by group membership. This study found no association between social media use and self-esteem, nor any moderating effects of group membership. Furthermore, there were no moderating effects of LGBTQ+ status or rurality on these variables.

Research Data and Supplementary Material