top of page

Solitude is not just for hermits

Thomas, V., Balzer Carr, B., Azmitia, M., & Whittaker, S. (2020, April 9). Alone and Online: Understanding the Relationships Between Social Media, Solitude, and Psychological Adjustment. Psychology of Popular Media. Advance online publication.

This study is interesting because it sheds light on the relationship between those who prefer solitude and the use of social media. The common perception of an extrovert is a person who is gregarious and is the life of the party. While it is true that they might prefer socializing with others, they are fed by the energy of others.

On the other hand, we often perceive introverts to be "shy." They might enjoy smaller crowds because they don't need the energy of others. Instead, they gather their energy when they are alone. This study, along with others, differentiates two types of introverts--high-functioning and low-functioning. High-functioning introverts tend to be less lonely and seek solitude. Low-functioning introverts scored higher on trait loneliness and didn't seek solitude. They also had lower development of their identity, lower autonomy, and decreased positive relationships.

Here's what they first measured:

  1. preference for solitude

  2. motivation for solitude

  3. Big Five--extraversion portion

  4. Identity (e.g. "I've got a clear idea of what I want to be.")

  5. loneliness scale

  6. autonomy (e.g. "Being happy with myself is more important than having others approve of me."

  7. positive relations with others ("most people see me as loving and affectionate.").

Then they popped in every once in a while onto the participants' phones with a quick survey. They measured these:

  1. their current mood (happy, calm, excited, sociable, cheerful, relaxed, lonely--with their polar opposites)

  2. alone status and preference (truly alone=physically alone and not communicating with anyone; device alone=physically alone but communicating on a device; around others but not communicating with them; socially interacting with others; social while on device=with others, but communicating on device with others). Asked one question about whether or not they preferred to be alone

  3. social media usage