Loneliness and Social Uses of the Internet
Internet;Loneliness;CMC;Disturbed use of Internet;Social behaviors
Computers in Human Behavior
Loneliness has been associated with increased Internet use. Lonely individuals may be drawn online because of the increased potential for companionship, the changed social interaction patterns online, and as a way to modulate negative moods associated with loneliness. Online, social presence and intimacy levels can be controlled; users can remain invisible as they observe others’ interactions, and can control the amount and timing of their interactions. Anonymity and lack of face-to-face communication online may decrease self-consciousness and social anxiety, which could facilitate pro-social behavior and enhance online friendship formation. Support for this model was found in a survey of 277 undergraduate Internet users that was used to assess differences between lonely and not-lonely individuals in patterns of Internet use. Loneliness was assessed on the UCLA Loneliness Scale; students in the highest 20% (Lonely) were compared with all other students (Non-lonely). Lonely individuals used the Internet and e-mail more and were more likely to use the Internet for emotional support than others. Social behavior of lonely individuals consistently was enhanced online, and lonely individuals were more likely to report making online friends and heightened satisfaction with their online friends. The lonely were more likely to use the Internet to modulate negative moods, and to report that their Internet use was causing disturbances in their daily functioning.