Using Technology to Combat Social Isolation
Despite increasing accessibility to connect with others online, the general public is lonelier than ever (Blackpool, Gjøvik and Tokyo 2019). To address this growing pandemic of social isolation and loneliness, the current proposal plans to use experimental methods to examine how social media can be used to help reduce loneliness and promote overall mental well-being. Specifically, I examine it by developing a better understanding of how recommending varied (different) vs. unvaried (similar) experiences to users on a platform can aid in increasing overall psychological well-being. By recommending experiences that deviate from the users’ usual self-expressed experience sets (varied experiences), lonely individuals may construe the recommendation as a sign of change, which in turn helps them to form more positive evaluations of themselves and increase overall well-being. Furthermore, this proposed effect is likely influenced by the group size of the recommended activity. Because social identity, such feelings of “us” vs. “them,” can be activated in group settings, participating a foreign activity in a smaller group size could exacerbate feelings of loneliness (e.g., “I am not one of them.”).