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Online Communications in the Relationships of 13- to 40-Year-Olds

Happy diverse man and women smiling and browsing cellphones while resting on stairs on street
Exploring how social media and messaging platforms affect teens’ and young adults’ relationships with friends and family
  • Client
    Snap Inc.
  • Dates
    October 2023 – January 2024


There was insufficient research on the impact of social media and messaging apps on “real” relationships.

Online communications platforms such as social media and messaging apps have brought both positive and negative emotions to 13- to 40-year-olds. These platforms have facilitated connections with family and friends but have made users anxious about the content they post and find online.

Snap, Inc., was interested in understanding the role social media and online communication platforms play in the offline relationships of 13- to 40-year-olds. They were particularly interested in how certain features within social media and communication platforms may contribute to or relate to the users’ happiness and may facilitate these social interactions.


NORC conducted a nationwide poll of 13- to 40-year-olds. 

NORC conducted the nationwide poll from October 27 to November 10, 2023, using AmeriSpeak®, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 2,208 panel members ages 13 to 40. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.9 percentage points.

The nationwide survey focuses on 13- to 40-year-olds, who are often seen as one of the most relevant cohorts of consumers and users of these online communications platforms. The survey also provides insight on a variety of topics, such as the attitudes toward online communications platforms, the way they interact with those closest to them, the importance of relationships and social connection, and their opinions and preferences when it comes to specific features within online communications platforms.


Online connections are a source of happiness for young people, but other aspects of social media are less positive.

The 13- to 40-year-olds in our survey frequently connect with friends and family both in person and through online communication platforms, and these connections are a key source of their happiness. They say that features that bring them into communication with their family and close friends, such as direct messaging, make them happy (62 percent). Far fewer feel happy scrolling through their feed (38 percent), looking at content produced by celebrities or influencers (30 percent), or following the news through their timeline or feed (25 percent).

About 9 in 10 13- to 40-year-olds interact at least weekly with friends and family members both in person and through online communications platforms such as social media or messaging apps. The study does reveal a mix of positive and negative attitudes toward online communications platforms. Over half (56 percent) of 13- to 40-year-olds feel at least a little overwhelmed by what they encounter on social media and messaging apps, and 45 percent feel pressured to post content that makes them look good to others. However, these platforms can also serve as a key facilitator for positive relationships, as 80 percent say online communication platforms make them feel more in touch with what is going on in their friends’ lives. 

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