Creating, Consuming, and Connecting: Examining the Relationship Between Social Media Engagement and Loneliness


  • Matthew Pittman University of Oregon


Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, loneliness, creating, consuming


This study explores the relationship between social media attitudes and behaviors and loneliness among college students. The study looks at the interaction of loneliness with three popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), as well as how often those students create and/or consume content within each platform. A survey administered to 432 undergraduates at two universities in the Pacific Northwest identified a significant relationship between social media attitudes and behaviors and offline loneliness. In particular, as students’ affinity for Twitter and Instagram increased, their self-reported loneliness decreased. Similarly, the more they both created and consumed content within Twitter and Instagram, the more reported loneliness decreased. No significant correlations among attitudes, behaviors and loneliness were found for Facebook usage.



Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003). Loneliness and Internet use. Computers in Human Behavior, 19(1), 71-80.

Bock, G. W., Zmud, R. W., Kim, Y. G., & Lee, J. N. (2005). Behavioral intention formation in knowledge sharing: Examining the roles of extrinsic motivators, social-psychological forces, and organizational climate. MIS quarterly, 29(1), 87-111.

Bonetti, L., Campbell, M. A., & Gilmore, L. (2010). "The relationship of loneliness and social anxiety with children's and adolescents' online communication." Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13(3), 279-285.

Canary, D. J., & Spitzberg, B. H. (1993). Loneliness and media gratifications. Communication Research, 20(6), 800-821.

Cepeda-Benito, A., & Short, P. (1998). Self-concealment, avoidance of psychological services, and perceived likelihood of seeking professional help. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45(1), 58.

Chan, M. (2013). Mobile phones and the good life: Examining the relationships among mobile use, social capital and subjective well-being. New Media & Society, 1461444813516836.

Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 755-762.

Chua, A., Goh, D., & Lee, C.S. (2012). "Mobile content contribution and retrieval: An exploratory study using the uses and gratifications paradigm." Information Processing & Management, 48(1), 13-22.

Clark, D. M. T., Loxton, N. J., & Tobin, S. J. (2014). Declining loneliness over time evidence from American colleges and high schools. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167214557007.

Eveland, W. P., Nathanson, A. I., Detenber, B. H., & McLeod, D. M. (1999). Rethinking the social distance corollary perceived likelihood of exposure and the third-person perception. Communication Research, 26(3), 275-302.

Garbarino, E., & Strahilevitz, M. (2004). Gender differences in the perceived risk of buying online and the effects of receiving a site recommendation. Journal of Business Research, 57(7), 768-775.

Horton, D., & Wohl, R. R. (1956). Mass communication and para-social interaction: Observations on intimacy at a distance. Psychiatry, 19(3), 215-229.

ITU (International Telecommunications Union). (2014). Retrieved on March 12, 2014 from

Jin, B., & Park, N. (2013). Mobile voice communication and loneliness: Cell phone use and the social skills deficit hypothesis. New Media & Society, 15(7), 1094-1111.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media." Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

Lou, L., Yan, Z., Nickerson, A., & McMorris, R. (2012). An examination of the reciprocal relationship of loneliness and Facebook use among first-year college students. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(1), 105-117.

Marwick, A. (2011). To see and be seen: celebrity practice on Twitter. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 17(2), 139-158.

Mihailidis, P. (2014). "A tethered generation: Exploring the role of mobile phones in the daily life of young people." Mobile Media & Communication, 2(1), 58-72.

Morahan-Martin, J., & Schumacher, P. (2003). Loneliness and social uses of the Internet. Computers in Human Behavior, 19(6), 659-671.

Nadkarni, A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2012). Why do people use Facebook? Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 243-249.

National Mental Health Association (NMHA). (2001). Safeguarding your students against suicide: Full report. Retrieved on March 10, 2014 from

Olien, J. (2014). Loneliness is deadly: Social isolation kills more people than obesity does—and it’s just as stigmatized. Retrieved on March 12, 2014 from

Pew Research Center. (2014). The Web at 25 in the U.S. The overall verdict: The Internet has been a plus for society and an especially good thing for individual users. Retrieved on December 21, 2014 from

Pittman, M., & Tefertiller, A. (2015). With or Without You: Connected Viewing and co-viewing Twitter activity for traditional appointment and asynchronous broadcast models. First Monday, 20(7).

Reisman, D., Glazer, N., & Denney, R. (1950). The lonely crowd: A study of the changing American character. Yale University Press.

Russell, D. W. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66(1), 20-40. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa6601_2

Sheldon, K. M., Abad, N., & Hinsch, C. (2011). A two-process view of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: disconnection drives use, and connection rewards it. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(4), 766-775.

Singh, V. K., Jain, R., & Kankanhalli, M.S. (2009). "Motivating contributors in social media networks." Proceedings of the first SIGMM workshop on Social media. ACM.

Steafnone, M., Huang, Y. C., & Lackaff, D. (2011, January). Negotiating Social Belonging: Online, Offline, and In-Between. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-10). IEEE.

Stravynski, A., & Boyer, R. (2001). Loneliness in relation to suicide ideation and parasuicide: A population‐wide study. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 31(1), 32-40.

Streiner D.L., Norman G.R. (1989). Health measurement scales: A practical guide to their development and use. New York: Oxford University Press.

Whitty, M. T., & McLaughlin, D. (2007). Online recreation: The relationship between loneliness, Internet self-efficacy and the use of the Internet for entertainment purposes. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(3), 1435-1446.