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Divergent effects of social media use on meaning in life via loneliness and existential isolation during the coronavirus pandemic

Authors
  • Helm, Peter J.
  • Jimenez, Tyler
  • Galgali, Madhwa S.
  • Edwards, Megan E.
  • Vail, Kenneth E. III
  • Arndt, Jamie
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
Publisher
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2022
Volume
39
Issue
6
Pages
1768–1793
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/02654075211066922
PMID: 35664681
PMCID: PMC9096014
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Articles
License
Unknown

Abstract

Stay-at-home orders issued to combat the growing number of infections during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 had many psychological consequences for people including elevated stress, anxiety, and difficulty maintaining meaning in their lives. The present studies utilized cross-sectional designs and were conducted to better understand how social media usage related to people’s subjective isolation (i.e., social loneliness, emotional loneliness, and existential isolation) and meaning in life (MIL) during the early months of the pandemic within the United States. Study 1 found that general social media use indirectly predicted higher MIL via lower existential isolation and social isolation. Study 2 replicated these patterns and found that social media use also predicted lower MIL via higher emotional loneliness, and that the aforementioned effects occurred with active, but not passive, social media use. Findings suggest social media use may be a viable means to validate one’s experiences (i.e., reduce existential isolation) during the pandemic but may also lead to intensified feelings concerning missing others (i.e., increased emotional loneliness). This research also helps to identify potential divergent effects of social media on MIL and helps to clarify the relationships among varying types of subjective isolation.

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