Solitude in the digital age: Does social media add to or take away our solitude?

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Category: Communication

Description: Abstract: A time unoccupied by external tasks and free from social interactions – has been shown to allow us to rid ourselves of arousing emotions. This ‘deactivation effect’ of solitude can be beneficial at times. Yet, the pressing question is whether browsing social media during solitude would undermine that benefit. Two studies were conducted to explore this question. In Study 1 (N = 189), participants were brought into the lab to engage in 2 experiences: spending time in solitude and spending time alone browsing on social media; the order of the experiences was randomized. In study 2 (N = 230), participants were randomized into 3 groups to engage in different experiences: reading alone, browsing social media alone, or solitude. Both studies revealed that those who browsed social media while spending time alone engaged less in self-reflection compared to being in solitude. Exploratory analyses showed that people who are more introspective, authentic, or self-congruent displayed more positive experiential outcomes when in solitude and reading alone, but not when browsing social media alone, further shedding light on the interplay between personality and solitary experiences.

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