Background COVID-19 precipitated a plethora of mental health difficulties, particularly for those with preexisting mental health concerns such as depression or addictive tendencies. For some, the distress that emanated from the experience of the pandemic prompted excessive engagement in the safety of online interactions on social media. The present study examined whether variation in individuals’ sense of control explained the association between depression and addictive social media use. Method A sample of 1322 participants from two Middle Eastern nations provided data collected during the peak of the pandemic from February to May 2021. A combination of convenience and snowball sampling were used to recruit and collect data from college-aged students enrolled at two universities in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, respectively. This study adopted a cross-sectional design in which participants completed a self-administered survey that consisted of measures that assessed depressive affect, sense of control, and addictive social media use. Results Depression was significantly and positively associated with addictive SMU. Sense of control was negatively related to both depression and SMU and significantly mediated the association between these two variables (β = .62, SE = .03, 95%CI .56, .68). Conclusion This study identified a potential protective variable that could be targeted by psychological treatment to ameliorate the potential onset of addictive SMU in individuals with depressive symptoms under conditions of immense psychological distress such as a worldwide pandemic.
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