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Does quitting social networks change feelings of loneliness among freshmen? An experimental study

Elena R. Agadullina (School of Psychology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia)
Andrey Lovakov (Center for Institutional Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia)
Natalia V. Kiselnikova (Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russian Federation)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 30 April 2020

Issue publication date: 20 January 2021

Abstract

Purpose

The first year of college is a stressful life period connected with the experience of loneliness, isolation and depression since the majority of freshmen can no longer maintain an equally close relationship with school friends and family. Social networks have become a significant part of students' daily lives and might be an effective tool for maintaining relationship and reducing loneliness. There are contradictory results concerning the relationship between social networks sites (SNS) use and feelings of loneliness.

Design/methodology/approach

A four-week experiment was conducted to study the effect of SNS on feelings of social and emotional loneliness across freshmen. The treatment group (n = 40) took a break from SNS, while the control group (n = 37) used SNS as usual.

Findings

Comparison of the treatment and control groups showed that quitting SNS does not change either feeling of social/emotional loneliness. This paper also found that feelings of social and emotional loneliness did not depend on freshmen's positive/negative attitudes toward being alone.

Originality/value

This study is one of the few that uses experimental design to study the effects of using social networks on the psychological state of students in the context of higher education. The results showed that refusing SNS use can have a positive potential for psychological well-being of freshmen since solitude can be used by them as time for self-discovery and self-development. According to the results, social networks neither increase nor decrease the feeling of loneliness, and offline learning and communication environment plays a more significant role in the adaptation of freshmen. These results allow to take a new look at the studies related to the relationship between SNS use and loneliness and the role of social networks in the adaptation of freshmen.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Russian Foundation for Basic Research Project № 17-29-02225

Citation

Agadullina, E.R., Lovakov, A. and Kiselnikova, N.V. (2021), "Does quitting social networks change feelings of loneliness among freshmen? An experimental study", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 149-163. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-11-2019-0283

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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