Loneliness and Hobby Adoption:

Social Networking During the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Eric Langstedt Mount Saint Mary College
  • Daniel Hunt Worcester State University


uses and gratifications, personality factors, social media, social networking, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Loneliness, hobbies


In this exploratory study we sought to understand the personality factors and motivations for using social networking sites (SNSs) during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. We also explore the role of SNSs in hobby adoption and online sharing behavior during a period of isolation and social distancing. Our results indicate that loneliness was the most common motive for social media use. The personality trait, neuroticism, was the most significant predictor of SNS use. Our analysis included social networking platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Our inclusion of TikTok provides preliminary evidence of why people use this popular new platform. While many respondents adopted a hobby during the pandemic, those scoring high for neuroticism were the most influenced by SNSs to take up a hobby, while also being the least motivated to share their new hobby on social media.

Author Biography

Eric Langstedt, Mount Saint Mary College

Assistant Professor of Communication, Division of Arts and Letters.


Acar, A.S., & Polonsky, M. (2007) Online social networks and insights into marketing communications. Journal of Internet Commerce, 6, 55-72. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332860802086227

Aiken, K. (2020, July 2). Why people baked so much bread during quarantine: An Explanation. Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/people-explain-why-baked-bread-quarantine_l_5ec73570c5b6698f38f5035c

Amichai-Hamburger, Y. & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003). Loneliness and internet use. Computers in Human Behavior, 19, 71-80. www.doi.org/10.1016/S0747-5632(02)00014-6

Auxier, B. (2020, October 21). 8 facts about Americans and Instagram. Pew Research Center: Fact Tank. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/21/8-facts-about-americans-and-instagram/

Auxier, B., & Anderson, M. (2021, April 7). Social media use in 2021. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/

Baker, D. A., & Perez Algorta, G. (2016). The relationship between online social networking and depression: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19, 638-648. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2016.0206.

Banerjee, D., & Rai, M. (2020). Social isolation in Covid-19: The impact of loneliness. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(6), 525-527. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764020922269

Bij de Vaate, A.J.D., Veldhyis, J., Alleva, J.M., Konijn, E.A., & van Hugten, C.H.M. (2018). Show your best self(ie): An exploratory study on selfie-related motivations and behavior in emerging adulthood. Telematics and Informatics, 35 (5), p. 1392-1407. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2018.03.010

Bowden-Green, T., Hinds, J., & Joinson, A. (2021). Personality and motives for social media use when physically distanced: a uses and gratifications approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.607948

Bryant, J., & Miron, D. (2004). Theory and research in mass communication. Journal of Communication, 54, 662-674.

Bunz, U. (2021). Investigating the relationship between social media use, big five personality, and subjective well-being. Journal of Communication Technology, 4(3), 25-52. https://doi.org/10.51548/joctec-2021-016

Carvalho, L.F., Pianowski, G., & Goncalves, A.P. (2020). Personality differences and COVID- 19: Are extroversion and conscientiousness personality traits associated with engagement with containment measures? Trends in Psychiatry Psychotherapy, 42(2), 179-184.http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2020- 0029

Cauberghe, V., Van Wesenbeeck, I., De Jans, S., Hudders, L., & Ponnet, K. (2021). How adolescents use social media to cope with feelings of loneliness and anxiety during COVID-19 lockdown. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24 (4), 250-257. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2020.0478

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Loneliness and social isolation linked

to serious health conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html

Charney, T., & Greenberg, B. (2002). Uses and gratifications of the Internet. In C. Lin, & D. Atkin (Eds.), Communication, technology and society: New media adoption and uses (pp. 379-407). Hampton Press.

Chen, E., Lerman, K., & Ferrara, E. (2020). Tracking social media discourse about the COVID-19 pandemic: Development of a public coronavirus Twitter data set. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 6(2). https:// doi.org/10.2196/19273

Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., and De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the web?: the intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 247–253. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.09.003

Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). The five-factor model of personality and its relevance to personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 6(4), 343–359. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi.1992.6.4.343

Daily, L.Z. (2018). Towards a definition of “hobby”: An empirical test of a proposed operational definition of the word hobby. Journal of Occupational Science, 25(3),368-382. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2018.1463286

DeAndrea, D.C., & Walther, J.B. (2011). Attributions for inconsistencies between online and offline self-presentations. Communication Research, 38(6), 805-825. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650210385340

de Jong Gierveld, J., van Tilburg, T.G., & Dykstra, P.A. (2006). Loneliness and social isolation. In D. Perlman & A. Vangelisti (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of personal relationships (pp. 485-500). Cambridge University Press.

Dimidjian, S., Barrera, M., Jr, Martell, C., Muñoz, R. F., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (2011). The origins and current status of behavioral activation treatments for depression. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 1–38. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104535

Drouin, M., McDaniel, B.T., Pater, J., & Toscos, T. (2020). How parents and their children used social media and technology at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and associations with anxiety. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 23 (11), 727-736. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2020.0284

Ellison, N.B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2011). Connection strategies: Social capital implications of Facebook-enabled communication practices. New Media & Society, 13(6), 873–892. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810385389

Ellison, N.B., Vitak, J., Gray, R., & Lampe, C. (2014). Cultivating social resources on social network sites: Facebook relationship maintenance behaviors and their role in social capital processes. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 855-870. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12078

Fang, L., Chao, C. C., & Ha, L. (2017). College students’ positive strategic SNS involvement and stress coping in the United States and China. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 46(6), 518-536.

Finn, S. (1997). Origins of media exposure: Linking personality traits to TV, radio, print, and film use. Communication Research, 24(5), 507-529. https://doi.org/10.1177/009365097024005003

Fullana, M.A., Hidalgo-Mazzei, D., Vieta, E., & Radua, J. (2020). Coping behaviors associated with decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Journal of Affective Disorders, 275, 80-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.027

Gil de Zúñiga, H., Diehl, T., Huber, B., & Liu, J. (2017). Personality traits and social media use in 20 countries: How personality relates to frequency of social media use, social media news use, and social media use for social interaction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20(9), 540-552.https://doi.org/10.1089/cyb er.2017.0295

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday.

Goldberg, L.R. (1999). International Personality Item Pool: A scientific collaboratory for the development of advanced measures of personality traits and other individual differences. http://ipip.ori.org/newBigFive5broadKey.htm#Extraversion

Gosling, S. D., Augustine, A. A., Vazire, S., Holtzman, N., & Gaddis, S. (2011). Manifestations of personality in online social networks: Self-reported Facebook-related behaviors and observable profile information. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(9), 483–488. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2010.0087

Hogan, B. (2010). The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing

performances and exhibitions online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30(6), 377-386. https://doi.org/10.1177/0270467610385893

Hollenbaugh, E. E., & Ferris, A. L. (2014). Facebook self-disclosure: Examining the role of traits, social cohesion, and motives. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 50-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.07.055

Hubner, A. (2021). How did we get here? A framing and source analysis of early COVID-19 media coverage. Communication Research Reports, 38 (2), 112–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2021.1894112

Hughes, A., & Wojcik, S. (2019, August 2). 10 facts about Americans and Twitter. Pew Research Center: Fact Tank. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/02/10-facts-about-americans-and-twitter/

Hunt, D.S., & Langstedt, E. (2014). The influence of personality on digital photo sharing. The Journal of Social Media in Society,3(2), 42-64. https://thejsms.org/index.php/JSMS/issue/view/6

Hunt, D.S., Lin, C.A., & Atkin, D. J. (2014a). Communicating social relationships via the use of photo-messaging. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 58(2), 234-252. https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2014.906430

Hunt, D.S., Lin, C.A., & Atkin, D. J. (2014b). Photo-messaging: Adopter attributes, technology factors and use motives. Computers in Human Behavior,40, 171–179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.07.030

Jacobs, J. A., & Gerson, K. (2001). Overworked individuals or overworked families? Explaining trends in work, leisure, and family time. Work and Occupations, 28(1), 40–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/0730888401028001004

Katz, E., Blumler, J.G., & Gurevitch, M. (1974). Utilization of mass communication by the individual. In J. G. Blumler & E. Katz (Eds.), The Uses of Mass Communication: Current Perspectives on gratifications Research (pp. 19-32). Sage.

Kotsier, J. (2020, September 14). Massive TikTok growth: up 75% this year, now 33x more users than nearest direct competitor. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2020/09/14/massive-tiktok-growth-up-75-this-year-now-33x-more-users-than-nearest-competitor/?sh=81ff5554fe46

Krcmar, M., & Kean, L.G. (2005). Uses and gratifications of media violence: Personality correlates of viewing and liking violent genres. Media Psychology, 7, 399–420. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532785XMEP0704_5

Latikka, R., Koivula, A., Oksa, R., Savela, N., & Oksanen. (2022). Loneliness and psychological distress before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: Relationships with social media identity bubbles. Social Science & Medicine, 293, 114674. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114674

Langstedt, E. (2011). An exploration of the Five Factor Personality Traits as Predictors of Online Social Network Use. (Publication No. 3472652) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Langstedt, E., & Hunt, D.S. (2017). An exploration into the brand personality traits of social media sites. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 6(2), 315-342. https://thejsms.org/index.php/JSMS/issue/view/13

Li, Y., Guan, M., Hammond, P., & Berrey, L.E. (2021). Communicating COVID-19 information on TikTok: A content analysis of TikTok videos from official accounts featured in the COVID-19 information hub. Health Education Research, 36(3), 261-171. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyab010

Litt, D.M., Rodriguez, L.M., & Stewart, S. H. (2021). Examining associations between social networking site alcohol-specific social norms, posting behavior, and drinking to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2020.0568

Liu, D., & Campbell, W.K. (2017) The big five personality traits, big two meta-traits and social media: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2017.08.004

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52(5), 509–516. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.52.5.509

Oeldorf-Hirsch, A. (2018). The role of engagement in learning from active and incidental news exposure on social media. Mass Communication and Society, 21(2), 225-247. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2017.1384022

Omar, B., & Dequan, W. (2020). Watch, share or create: The influence of personality traits and user motivation on TikTok mobile video usage. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 14(4), 121-137. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijim.v14i04.12429

Orchard, L.J., Fullwood, C., Galbraith, N., Morris, N. (2014). Individual difference as predictors of social networking. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 388-402. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12068

Papacharissi, Z., & Mendelson, A. (2010). Toward a new(er) sociability: Uses, gratifications and social capital on Facebook. In S. Papathanassopoulos (Ed.), Media perspectives for the 21st century (pp. 212–230). Routledge.

Pelletier, M.J., Krallman, A., Adams, F.G., & Hancock, T. (2020). One size doesn’t fit all: a uses and gratifications analysis of social media platforms. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, 14(2), 269-284. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIM-10-2019-0159

Pew Research Center (2019, June 12). Social media fact sheet. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/

Pittman, M., & Reich, B. (2016). Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 155–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.084

Pressman, S.D., Matthews, K.A., Cohen, S., Martire, L.M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R. (2009). Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosomatic Medicine,71(7), 725–732. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978

Primack, B.A. et. al. (2017) Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 53(1) 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2017.01.010

Quan-Haase, A., & Young, A.L. (2020). Uses and gratifications of social media: A comparison of Facebook and Instant Messaging. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30(5), 350-361. https://doi.org/10.1177/0270467610380009

Ramiriez, A., & Broneck, K. (2009). ‘IM me’: Instant messaging as relational maintenance and everyday communication. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26 (2/3), 291-314. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407509106719

Rathnayake, C., & Winter, J. S. (2018). “Carrying forward the Uses and Grats 2.0 agenda: An affordance- driven measure of social media uses and gratifications.” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 62(3), 371–389. https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2018.1451861

Ritner, C. (2013). Facebook: use, personality, and well-being. Thesis, Pacific University. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/48859969.pdf

Robinson, B. E. (2017, December 16). Time famine: How to satisfy your hunger for more. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-mindset/201712/time-famine.

Ross, C., Orr, E.S., Sisic, M., Arseneault, J.M., Simmering, M.J., & Orr, R. R. (2009). Personality and motivations associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 578-586. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2008.12.024

Rubin, A.M. (2002). The uses-and-gratifications perspective of media effects. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (pp. 525-582). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ruggiero, T.E. (2000). Uses and gratifications theory in the 21st century. Mass Communication and Society, 3 (1), 3-37. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327825MCS0301_02

Seidman, G. (2013). Self-presentation and belonging on Facebook: How personality influences social media use and motivations. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(3), 402–407. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.10.009

Sheldon, P., Rauschnabel, P., Antony, M. G., & Car, S. (2017). A cross-cultural comparison of Croatian and American social network sites: Exploring cultural differences in motives for Instagram use. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 643-651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.06.009

Smock, A. D., Ellison, N.B., Lampe, C., & Wohn, D.Y. (2011). Facebook as a toolkit: A uses and gratification approach to unbundling feature use. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 2322–2329. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.chb.2011.07.011

Song, H., Zmyslinski-Seelig, A., Kim, J., Drent, A., Victor, A., Omori, K., & Allen, M. (2014). Does Facebook make you lonely?: A meta-analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 446-452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.04.011

Steinberg, D.B., & Simon, V.A. (2019). A comparison of hobbies and organized activities among low-income urban adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28, 1182–1195. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01365-0

Sundar, S. S., & Limperos, A.M. (2013). Uses and Grats 2.0: New gratifications for new media. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 504-525. https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2013.845827

Twenge, J.M., & Joiner, T.E. (2020). Mental distress among U.S. adults during COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 76 (12), 2170–2182. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23064

van Dijck, J. (2013). ‘You have one identity’: Performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn. Media, Culture, & Society, 35(2), 199-215. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443712468605

Van House, N. & Davis, M. (2005). The social life of camera phone images. Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Tokyo, Japan.

Wang J. L., Jackson L. A., Zhang D. J., Su Z. Q. (2012). The relationships among the Big Five Personality factors, self-esteem, narcissism, and sensation-seeking to Chinese University students’ uses of social networking sites (SNSs). Computers in Human Behavior, 28(6), 2313–2319. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.001

White, D. (2020, April 9). Need a new hobby during coronavirus isolation? Here are some of the most popular. Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article241889651.html

World Health Organization. (2020, June 29). World Health Organization. Data Reports.


Wu, L. (2021). Well-being in the digital age: Introducing the special issue of communication technology and well-being (Part I). Journal of Communication Technology, 4(1), i-iv. https://doi.org/10.51548/joctec-2021-001

Xu, W., & Takai, J. (2020). Why do people experience loneliness while using social media? Intercultural Communication Studies, 29 (2), 99-115.


Yue, Z., Lee, D.S., Xiao, J. & Zhang, R. (2021): Social media use, psychological well-being and physical health during lockdown. Information, Communication & Society. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.2013917

Yue, Z., Zhang, R., & Xiao, J. (2022). Passive social media use and psychological well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of social comparison and emotion regulation. Computers in Human Behavior, 127, 107050. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2021.107050