New Research from University of Chicago’s NORC Shows Communicating Online with Friends Brings Happiness for Teens & Young Adults

Every day hundreds of millions of people use Snapchat to communicate with their closest friends and express themselves. That’s why Snapchat opens to a camera, not a feed of content, so anyone can share a Snap of how they’re feeling or what they’re doing in the moment. Conversations aren’t stored forever, they delete by default, just like the conversations we have in-person or over the phone. 
We’ve often heard from our community that Snapchat helps people stay close with their friends, even when they’re physically apart. We know how important these relationships are to health and happiness, and we always want to better understand how using Snapchat can make a positive impact by supporting real friendships.
To further explore this, we recently commissioned the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to conduct new research into the role of online communications platforms in interpersonal relationships among teens (ages 13-17) and young adults (ages 18-40) and how specific features of online platforms make people feel. NORC published their full study today and found that: 
  • Communicating online with close friends and family, using direct messaging features, is a key source of happiness for young people. According to NORC, about two-thirds of young people say direct messaging with family and close friends makes them feel extremely or very happy. This is the only feature of online communications platforms that makes a majority of both teens and young adults happy.
  • Online platforms can produce a range of feelings, both positive and negative, depending on the different features used. Eighty percent of teens and young adults report that online communications platforms help them feel more in touch with what is going on in their friends’ lives. At the same time, over half of respondents say platforms can make them feel overwhelmed; 45% report feeling pressured to only post content that makes them look good to others; and more than a third feel pressured to post content that will get lots of likes or comments. 
  • Snapchat helps support and deepen friendships. According to the NORC data, respondents who use Snapchat report higher satisfaction with the quality of friendships and relationships with family than non-Snapchatters. Snapchatters also report positive feelings around creativity and self-expression compared to those who don’t use Snapchat, with 69% of Snapchatters saying they feel like they have a place where they can show their creative side on these platforms, compared to just 58% non-Snapchatters.
You can read NORC’s full report here [LINK]. While this is just one study, it offers more insight into the ways that Snapchat supports friendship and well-being. We’re excited to see that many of the design decisions we have made over the years can contribute to closer relationships and more happiness, especially at a time when people are feeling more lonely and increasingly concerned about mental health. We believe that technology can help us grow closer together when we design products in a human-centered way.
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