The keyword “Loneliness” is becoming more and more common to be mentioned on social media. Although people seems to be closer and closer with others due to the rapid development of social network, a lot of netizens post their isolated emotion on the internet. As Sherry Turkle, a famous professor in psychology, mentioned in her TED Talk: People hide from each other, even though contact with each other . Therefore, there is a curiosity about what kind of person feel and get through loneliness most.
what do we mean when we refer to “loneliness”
As De Jong and Van Tilburg defined, loneliness is the experience of an unpleasant or unacceptable discrepancy between the amount and quantity of social relationship as realized compared to the relationship as desired. Generally speaking, people feel lonely when they recognize the gap between the psychological needs and the real reception without others’ accompany. This sense of isolation is the exact “loneliness” that we talk about later.
Professors and specialists from various field such as communication, psychology and other relative areas had done tremendous research in human loneliness. Besides studying the loneliness phenomenon, they also pay attention to particular groups of people who are regarded as lonely individuals. For example, an article from University of Rochester focused on the meaning of loneliness among old people. It studied the interpretation of what the loneliness mean and the relation between the degree of loneliness and old people’s living situation. On the other side, a study from State university of New York par attention to the group of college students. By employing a survey, they figure out the interaction of the loneliness and the action of Facebook using.
Who is the most frequently mentioned on social media?
Since there is more and more common to see people talk about loneliness on social media, it is worthy to analysis which group people are concerned most when people mention loneliness. Therefore, a data collection and analysis is conducted to find out the most frequently mentioned group and the Key Opinion Leader.
In order to gain the text that what do people talk when they mention the emotion of loneliness, 2953 tweets including the hashtag #loneliness have been extracted from twitter by a google sheet template TAGS v6.1 during the period from 14 April 2018 to 24 April 2018.
Uploading the content of 2953 tweets onto Voyant tool, we can see a picture (see Fig.1) of word cloud shows that loneliness is followed by the word isolation, and people closely, which are relative emotions that always occur when the sense of lonely appears. The only particular words about a specific group of people is old people, which guides me to pay attention to this group of sampling in the later analysis.
Figure 1. Words that comes together with #loneliness
Holding the general understanding about relative words, the total sample of 2953 tweets has been input to Tableau. The image of tweets over time (see Fig. 2) below shows that people retweets most, compared with the other tweet types of mention and original tweets. There are two obvious peaks through this period.
At the first peak on 19 April, a tweet from the account @LEAD_Coalition took up most, which promotes a popularization paper of the loneliness from Alzheimer patients. The highest peak on 24 April appears because of a launching from Costa on the account @EndLonelinessUK to help old people chat or nat with others, also aiming at the attention of loneliness older people. The discussion about releasing the sense of loneliness and caring about the elders who live independently seems a hot topic on the social media.
Figure 2 . Tweets over time
As for the related keyword/hashtag that is related to loneliness in users’ discussion, the image below(see Fig.3) shows another group of people–the HIV patients. Besides the elder people that we find out above, HIV patients are also an important group that struggling through the sense of loneliness.
Figure 3. Secondary hashtag followed by #loneliness
After realizing that the old ages and HIV sufferers are the possible most frequently mentioned, a human content coding(see Fig. 4) is utilized to differ the top discussed group.
|RT @WillyWangStory: Loneliness and isolation top list of unmet social needs among people living with HIV in the UK • #HIV #AIDS # Social #Unmet #Needs #UK #UnitedKingdom #Survey #Loneliness #Isolation • https://t.co/V5cMmudvLv https://t.co/NyNnh2P2ta|
|RT @EatWellScot: Fantastic news that the Meal Makers project from Food Train has now launched in Dumfries & Galloway!
A brilliant project with #volunteers providing an older person with freshly prepared good food, and some extra company.
|others||Tweets do not include any information about HIV or old people|
Figure 4. Code scheme for differing the HIV and old ages groups
As a result, The number of tweets about lonely old people takes up 30, which is equal to 20% and much higher than the HIV group. In the coding process, the tweets of old people group contains both the popularization paper and some campaign promotions. It told us that old people’s loneliness is being posted most frequently on twitter, though they are not the main users on twitter. Since there is a huge drop of physical function and psychological satisfactory, there are many old people feel loneliness especially when they live independently. Besides old ages, those who get into HIV are also a lonely group that is worthy to be mentioned because it is serious to care about their mental health.
Who is the Key Opinion leader?
To find out the KOL, the edges of sampling retweets have been uploaded into the software (see Fig. 5). To display the important account among different loneliness groups and the most frequent active account, the size of nodes is ranked by betweenness centrality while the color of nodes has been ranked by degree.
Figure 5. the cluster of retweets
It is apparent that the biggest node is the account @ThesilverLineUK, which has the highest betweenness centrality. After further research, this account is mainly for loneliness old people. However, this account also posts some popularization paper for people in other generation with problem of loneliness. The edges in the strongest color is the cluster centered around the account @EndLonelinessUK. This account aims improving the living situation for those lonely elders, supporting various kinds of campaign that appealing people to pay attention to this group. Take the high user visibility in Tableau into consideration, this account is supposed to act as the role of KOL among this topic on twitter.
Old people’s loneliness is being talked most frequently on twitter, though they are not the main users on twitter. Since there is a huge drop of physical function and psychological satisfactory, there are many old people feel loneliness especially when they live independently. Besides old ages, those who get into HIV are also a lonely group that is worthy to be mentioned because it is serious to care about their mental health. Among the discussion of lonely old people, the most active account@EndLonelinessUK is supposed to be KOL.
Beyond what we have seen…
There are lots of other groups of people who might be also lonely because of the lack of media exposure. For example, the disabled or some rare diseases patients are supposed to be taken under consideration because they are also isolated due to the untouchable access to twitter.
Also, some important accounts might be loss. For example, psychological specialists who are studying the mental health was not covered in this analysis. These kind of professors or specialists strongly make some influence among lonely people. However, because of the limitation of time period or amount, their voice has not been shown in the paper.
At the end…
Living in group is a kind of human nature which is supposed to be an important part of mental health. From the content above, it is a notice for us to pay attention to the mental situation for old people and other groups individuals who are struggling in diseases. Anyway, not only for those who are weak and not able to take care of themselves well, but also for us, it is vital to keep in a healthy mental situation and get away from loneliness.
So, best wishes:)
- Peter Abas. Loneliness and Lived experience of Elderly Individuals Living Independently: Hermeneutic Phenomenological Approach. University of Rochester, New York. 2007 [UMI:3300580]
- Lai Lei Lou.Loneliness, friendship, and self-esteem-first year college students’ experience of using Facebook.University at Albany, State university of New York. 2009. [UMI:3387202]
- De Jong-Gierveld, J.,& Van Tilburg, T.G. Manual of the loneliness scale.Verge Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Social Research Methodology.