Master of Science
Schermer, Julie A.
Saklofske, Donald H.
Communication and relationships have been dramatically altered because of the rapid adoption of the smartphone in just over a decade. The present study examined loneliness, facets of neuroticism, communication apprehension, emotional support, and nomophobia with individual differences in smartphone use. In addition, the research also looked at differences in loneliness and smartphone use as a result of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Participants (302 women and 290 men) completed a survey of the variables and reported smartphone data over two years. The sample was also divided into pre-COVID-19 (N = 226) and during-COVID-19 (N = 251). Correlations indicated loneliness was positively associated with screen time, social media app use, communication anxiety, neuroticism, social recognition, and nomophobia. Loneliness was negatively associated with smartphone pickups, communication app use, need for affiliation, and emotional support. A regression analysis revealed that personality, emotional support, and smartphone pickups were significant predictors of loneliness. Comparing pre-pandemic and pandemic states, there was an increase in smartphone duration, and a decrease in the association between social media app use and loneliness during the pandemic. These results suggest that lonely individuals use their smartphones differently, the pandemic has affected smartphone use, and that personality is a stable, but nuanced force in the understanding of loneliness.
Summary for Lay Audience
Communication and relationships have dramatically altered because of the rapid adoption of the smartphone in just over a decade. This study looks at loneliness, specifically how loneliness is associated with smartphone use as well as other personal characteristics. One characteristic includes a personality type that tends to worry or have mood swings (called neuroticism). This study also looked at how much support people feel they have from friends and family. We were also able to compare loneliness and smartphone use before the COVID-19 pandemic and during. Participants (302 women and 290 men) completed an online survey. Each person reported data about their smartphone use, which included the amount of time spent using their smartphone, how often they check their smartphone, and what applications (apps) they use most often.
Results of the study showed that lonelier participants were more likely to spend more time using their smartphone, use social media apps, be anxious about talking to people, tend to worry, want to be liked by peers, and feel anxious about being apart from their smartphone. Participants who were less lonely were more likely to pick up their smartphone often, use apps such as texting or messaging, want to have close relationships, and feel supported by their friends and family. Taking into account all of these factors, lonelier individuals pick up their smartphone less often, score higher on the personality trait of neuroticism, and feel less supported by friends and family. Smartphone use increased during COVID-19, but loneliness did not. These results suggest that lonely individuals do use their smartphones differently, and that personality is a stable, but nuanced force in the understanding of loneliness.
Baerg MacDonald, Kristi J., "Loneliness Unlocked: Associations with Smartphone Use and Personality" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7829.
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