Existing scholarly work on young adult social media use is mostly geared toward understanding the effects or outcomes of their usage. Additionally, scholars tend to generalize social media use, and do not necessarily distinguish different behaviors or ways that users interact with social media. My research attempts to understand what motivates young adults to use social media, and more specifically, why they feel the desire to consume content on social media. I hypothesize that social media users spend more time scrolling and consuming content on social media, or engaging in less social behavior, more often than commenting, liking, or directly messaging other users. In order to better understand young adults’s social media consumption habits, I conducted ten in person interviews with students at Hamilton College and used self determination theory and regulatory focus theory to drive my coding and analysis. Competence was the most evident component of self determination theory that appeared in my analysis, and the strongest motivating factor for social media consumption. While relatedness and autonomy were also motivating factors, they were not as pervasive as competence. This study seeks to examine why young adults endlessly scroll on social media, and what there is to gain from less social behavior or social media consumption.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson, Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.