Social media is an increasingly popular form of connecting with others, especially among young adults, but problematic social media use (PSMU) has become a growing concern. Research has shown that people with anxious attachment styles and poor emotion regulation have a greater likelihood of having PSMU (Liu & Ma, 2019), but how social media usage might play a role in these relationships has not been well-studied. This research asked if the association between anxious attachment and PSMU will be affected by both emotion regulation and online social surveillance in romantic relationships as mediating influences. We utilized advanced mobile phone features to gather screen time data to measure as a covariate. Young adult participants who were in a romantic relationship and were users of social media (N=158) completed online questionnaires regarding relationship behavior (attachment style, online social surveillance), emotion regulation, and social media use. A subset of the sample also provided detailed screen time data (n=76). Results demonstrated that both emotion regulation difficulties and social surveillance were significantly, positively associated with PSMU, and also were significantly, positively associated with anxious attachment. In contrast to previous work, however, anxious attachment was not directly associated with PSMU. Screen time measures revealed that Facebook has been replaced by newer platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok in young adults’ media preferences. Future research should examine the differences among social platforms and their uses.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Social media--Psychological aspects; Interpersonal relations; Attachment behavior; Motivation (Psychology)

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Experimental Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


Kirsten Condry

Advisor/Committee Member

Joseph Baschnagel

Advisor/Committee Member

Lindsay Schenkel


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes