Will Online Chat Alleviate Mood Loneliness?


Loneliness is a subjective experience in which the individual’s relationships are fewer or less satisfying than desired. Loneliness is divided in two forms, the chronic loneliness or trait loneliness and the mood loneliness.

Chronic loneliness is when a person fails to establish satisfactory personal relationships with others for two or more consecutive years, reflecting “long-term cognitive and behavioral deficits in relating to other people.”

Mood loneliness refers to “the everyday, garden variety of loneliness, the periodic passing mood that usually disappears as soon as someone comes to talk with us.”

Mood loneliness typically comes from those short-term and temporary external events. Active strategies such as talking to friends alleviates mood loneliness effectively. Also mood loneliness is more of a state characteristic while chronic loneliness is a trait factor, can be part of the personality. Chronic loneliness is attributed to such stable personality traits as introversion, shyness,and low self-esteem.

How do the popular new media influence loneliness? Will social Internet use alleviate people’s loneliness mood? Is social Internet use the ideal communication medium for those with trait loneliness and how does this influence mood loneliness? Will computer social interaction reduce loneliness mood in people high in trait loneliness, is it better than face-to-face communication?

Research with chatting on these issues was recently published.

Participants reported increase of mood loneliness after chatting online. The level of mood loneliness after online chat was higher than that in face-to-face communication. For people with high trait loneliness, the mood loneliness increase in the computer-mediated communication condition was significantly higher than in the face-to-face communication condition.

In short for those with hight trait loneliness computer-mediated communication made mood loneliness increase and thus was a less effective way to cope with loneliness that social use of the Internet cannot reduce people’s mood loneliness. So chatting won’t help for them with trait loneliness suffering from mood loneliness as was hoped for. The shy and introverted are not helped for their loneliness with chatting, according to this research.

How was this study done?

Two hundred thirty-four people from a large Midwestern university participated in both the survey testing trait loneliness and a 5-condition (face-to-face chatting, instant message chatting, watching video, writing assignments, and “do nothing”) experiment

Overall there was no significant difference in mood loneliness change between social activities and nonsocial activities conditions.

Computer-mediated communication contributes to the increase of mood loneliness and then turns out to be a less effective way to alleviate loneliness than face-to-face communication. For those with low trait loneliness, there was no significant difference of mood loneliness change between face-to-face communication and computer mediated communication conditions.

This study is probably the first on social Internet use and well-being. There was no difference in the effectiveness between social and nonsocial activities to deal with loneliness. For those with high trait loneliness, computer-mediated communication made mood loneliness increase and thus was a less effective way to cope with loneliness. This is only tested with online chatting, just one of the many ways of using the Internet for social activities, whether other forms of social Internet use will have the same result needs to studied.

The face-to-face and computer-mediated communication in the current study was conducted among strangers. Maybe with friends and/or relatives the social Internet interaction might improve loneliness.

This study is only about short term effects, the long term effects were not studied in this research.

Surprised? What do you think?

Mu Hu (2009). Will Online Chat Help Alleviate Mood Loneliness? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 2147483647-5 DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0134