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About this book

Loneliness affects quality of life, life satisfaction, and well-being, and it is associated with various health problems, both somatic and mental. This book takes an international and interdisciplinary approach to the study of loneliness, identifying and bridging the gaps in academic research on loneliness, and creating new research pathways. Focusing in particular on loneliness in the context of new and emergent communication technologies, it provides a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and will contribute to the re-evaluation of the way we understand and research this contemporary global phenomenon.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. An Introduction to Emotions and Loneliness in a Networked Society

Easy Internet access and social media have had a tremendous impact on contemporary society, penetrating almost every aspect of life and creating new business and economic models. Much of ones daily activities require being active online, from answering work emails to e-learning, shopping, booking medical appointments or online banking. Every morning before 9 a.m. most people would have already read about events around the globe, sent a message to a friend on Facebook, or spent £100 without even leaving the house.
Bianca Fox

Mediated Emotions and Loneliness


Chapter 2. Emotions in the Public Sphere: Networked Solidarity, Technology and Social Ties

The theoretical framework that lies behind the concept of emotional public sphere has been built in dialectic: indeed, the accent on the role of emotions in public discourse, politics and media was born with a polemic intent. Studying the emotional public sphere requires to recollect ideas on social ties, community and solidarity that seem dispersed by the hegemony of individualism and the rise of the network society. Loose ties and flexible practices of belonging run hand by hand with fragmentation and radicalisation of publics. In such a context, the attention has been shifted from community bonds to intimate relationships as key feature to define personal identity. Hence, emotions acquire a main role in the process of integration and disintegration of social ties, with important consequences on social trust and cohesion. This chapter will provide a literature review on the role of emotions in four models of the public sphere (liberal, participatory, deliberative and constructionist), showing how the literature focusing on the interplay among emotions, public sphere and popular culture is well-rooted. It will then explore the role of social media in the public sphere, highlighting the most recent accounts. From the one side, a large amount of studies emphasises the role of emotions in personal relations via social media; from the other side, when the interest on emotions shifts from personal to public interactions on social media, issues of fragmentation, polarisation, and populism emerge, providing a pessimist picture on the emotionalisation of the public sphere. On the contrary, the chapter fills a gap in the literature on the emotional public sphere by addressing the relationship between social media and solidarity. In order to reach this goal, an original theoretical framework is provided as a contribution to investigate the emerging field of networked solidarity. Theoretical accounts are illustrated through the analysis of cases of emotional clicktivism, affective publics, solidarity movements and networked solidarity, examining the role of algorithms and technology in shaping the expression of solidarity in the network society.
Emiliana De Blasio, Donatella Selva

Chapter 3. Mediatised Emotions: A Framework for Understanding the Display of Affect in the Network Society

Recent scholarship demonstrates increasing interest in the emotions as drivers of news sharing and virality in digital environments. To understand how emotions unfold in the network society, this chapter offers a conceptual framework articulated on three levels. First, at the macro level, it explores the phenomenon of mediatisation and sharing culture. Secondly, on the meso level, it examines the digital space, configured around platforms, which condition emotional expression and favour the emergence of “affective publics.” Finally, at the micro level, it presents social interactions in the digital sphere from the user perspective, where the combination of psychological motivation and certain content features mobilise the emotions, which can then give rise to said content going viral.
Javier Serrano-Puche, Leonor Solís Rojas

Chapter 4. Communication of Loneliness Emotions in the Online Vlogs and Their Moral Value

Using the method of visual narrative analysis and the grounded theory, the answers are searched for the questions—what are the most typical emotional experiences that go with the representation of loneliness in the public digital communication and how the modern communication technologies are enabling these representations? The analysis allows to understand what has been the most desired for the young people and what is wished but not acquired (or lost) subject or experience which resulted in the loneliness. Finally, the attention is paid to the loneliness performance’s possible role in creating a digital culture and making moral sense to existential and difficult subjective experience which is transformed into a digital performance.
Skaidrīte Lasmane, Kristīne Antonova

Chapter 5. Connected Emotions on Tinder: The Development of Social Skills and a Digital Self Among Users from Mexico City and Madrid

Tinder is more than just a dating mobile application; it is a connection and presentation app. Sometimes it is not all about looking for a serious partner to start a relationship or just for casual sex, as it is usually expected, but much more: an opportunity to connect with someone else and the chance to create meaningful relationships. Because of its social representation, Tinder justifies and simplifies interactions with strangers and can help not only with finding a special person, but developing social skills and gaining confidence and self-esteem because of feeling recognized, and even more, because it allows to create bonds connecting emotions and sharing experiences together. This is the result of a research done during two years with 18–31 years old users from Mexico City and Madrid.
Rodrigo Alonso Cardoso-González

Loneliness: Representations and Experiences


Chapter 6. Loneliness Essentialism and Mental Illness Stigmatization

The commonality of social network use seems to deepen the idea that loneliness is a silent plague targeting all in the society. Loneliness is defined in many ways but mainly means emotional or social isolation. The premise of this isolation in today’s society comes at the disconnectivity of people that comes at the continuous use of social networks. The irony is that social networks promised social connectivity (Klinenberg New York Times. February 9, 2018) when they came about. But the social media connectivity led to social disconnect and therefore the epidemic of loneliness. The idea of loneliness as infestation is problematic this chapter argues. In many ways if everyone is lonely than the feeling of loneliness for those who live with stigma might be belittled. Furthermore, if everyone is lonely than the essentialism of this emotion can overlook class struggle. Saraceno and Dua (Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 259:109–117, 2009), for example, explain that the insufficient funding leave the loneliest people to dwell in their own loneliness. Finally if everyone is lonely than the link between mental illness and loneliness is superficial, which in many times is the core of loneliness. When loneliness is attached to mental illness, much of the discussion revolves around the most popular discourse of acceptable therapy such as breakup loneliness. Instead I would like to address the loneliness that comes as a result of major mental illness such as schizophrenia. I find Patricia Collins and Sirma Bilge (Intersectionality. Polity Press, 2016) writings on intersectionality appealing. They pay homage to the heterogeneous, disciplinary, and historical meanings of the concept. They give credit Crenshaw (University of Chicago Legal Forum: 139–167, 1989) who coined the term to represent, a concept representing the interactions of biases and axes of oppressions some of us go through. But against the term’s determinism, they urge readers to recognize that the highlights of intersections of social injustices existed prior to the term’s coining. “When it comes to social injustices,” they write, similar to Crenshaw that analysis should avoid focusing on a single axis be it race, gender, etc. Their view on intersectionality is undertaken because they highlight the cultural, disciplinary, structural, and interpersonal as axes of oppression. Critics fault the theory for its all-encompassing to different axes of domination (Gonzalez Quillette, August 24, 2018) that highlights an additive approach to these four axes of oppression (Martin Intersectionality is a Political Football, Here Why it Doesn’t Have to Be, April 17, 2017). I argue however when it comes to mental illness link to loneliness, the way intersectionality is portrayed in Collins and Blinge work is essential for both its contextualization and analysis. This work focuses on the unjust discourses about bodies. The contribution of this chapter therefore is to highlight the unjust discourses at the intersection of mental illness, communication, and stigma to add a voice to intersectionality and communication scholarship on mental illness. The hope of this work is to shift our vocabulary from brainblindness to brain mindfulness.
Sanae Elmoudden

Chapter 7. Media Representation of Loneliness in China

In recent years, China has experienced social and economic development along with continuously improving living standards. However, Chinese people’s sense of loneliness has shown epidemic trends in different age groups, social classes, and social interaction levels, which has been widely reported by the domestic media. This paper aims to analyze the manifestations, evolution, and comprehensive factors of Chinese people’s loneliness in the context of media representation, further studies the current lonely culture in China, and finally proposes strategies of adjustment for the social loneliness in China. This study picks “loneliness” and “sense of loneliness” as key words and selects 168 media coverage of loneliness between 2006 and 2017 from the mainstream media networks (People’s Daily Online and Xinhua News Network) in China as the study sample for content analysis and case study. The results of the analysis reveal that (1) Chinese mainstream media’s attention to the loneliness is presenting a growing tendency in recent years; (2) The coverage subjects emphasize on the phenomenon of loneliness and the derivative “lonely culture”; and (3) Moderate reporting framework and multiple reporting subjects present the social concern of the mainstream media and their reporting preferences based on various groups of people (including empty nesters, live-alone youths, left-behind children, alone-together in social networks, etc.). There are a variety of reasons for the formation of the social loneliness in China, including China’s one-child policy, rapid urbanization process, and individual’s network being. The social impacts of the loneliness give birth to the “lonely culture” in China: There are lonely catering culture of “single food”; lonely consumer culture of “single KTV” as well as lonely screen culture of “The Solitary Gourmet”. This paper provides suggestions for representing loneliness and accordingly could achieve the decrease of social loneliness in China. This study suggests that the media should be alarm to the potential social dangers brought by psychological loneliness and avoid over-emphasis on social loneliness and its derivative culture; the media should spread the traditional Chinese family culture and family values, promoting the care of state policies leaning to the family unit as basic social component and therefore enhancing the public’s sense of security and belonging.
Ling Qiu, Xin Liu

Chapter 8. Making Sense of The Lonely Crowd, Today: Youth, Emotions and Loneliness in a Networked Society

One hundred and ten years after the birth of David Riesman (1909–2002), and almost 70 after the publication of The Lonely Crowd (1950), this chapter revisits the main contributions of such a work for a current reading of youth in a networked society. Anchored on data collected from a representative sample of students in secondary schools in Évora, a city in the south of Portugal (Europe), the chapter makes use of statistical analysis to discuss if and how today society impels young individuals to experience loneliness, by specifically referring to those integrating, avoiding or engaging “the crowd”. Ultimately, the paper seeks to advance understanding on the contemporary and globalized relations between emotions and loneliness, as Riesman wisely put it.
Rosalina Pisco Costa, Paulo Infante, Anabela Afonso, Gonçalo Jacinto

Chapter 9. Lonelier Than Ever? Romania’s Forgotten Seniors

In recent years, Romania experienced an increase in the number of seniors from total population. At the same time, if in 2011 a percent of 14.7% of Romanians of all ages feel themselves lonely in 2015 one of two seniors declared that he or she is alone. “What are the peculiarities of Romanian seniors’ loneliness?” and “What is the connection between media and loneliness in the case of Romanian older adults?”—were the main research questions at which the present article had tried to offer an answer. The data showed that (interpersonal and mass) communication plays a key role in avoiding the loneliness of older adults. Even if the Romanian state’s institutions do nothing to solve the seniors’ problems, they find creative and innovative ways in fighting against loneliness with the help of their peers. Unfortunately, giving the demographic negative forecast one could only expect that the Romanian seniors’ loneliness to become an endemic situation in the next decades.
Valentina Marinescu, Ecaterina Balica

Chapter 10. Experiences of Loneliness: People with a Learning Disability and Barriers to Community Inclusion

Tackling social exclusion which can lead to social isolation and loneliness is an important current issue. People with a learning disability have a right to be full members of their communities, yet often experience social exclusion. Community connections play a key role in people developing reciprocal relationships. It is therefore important to know the barriers to full inclusion. The chapter draws on the literature on both friendships and social exclusion, starting with the social history of people with a learning disability, to give a context to their lives today. It then discusses some of the social barriers they can experience and identifies some of the approaches and tools that can be used to facilitate community connections and the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other people.
Liz Tilly

Chapter 11. Emotions of Belonging and Playing Families Across Borders in Sub-Saharan Africa

Intra-migration between South Africa and other African countries has been an emotional investment dating back to 1886 when gold was found in what was to later become Johannesburg forcing husbands to abandon their homes and families to seek work in the colonial mines. The growth of new media and social media technologies has brought to our attention how migrants connect with relatives and friends to create a sense that home and family are both, “here”, in South Africa, and “there”, the country of origin. As a result of rising xenophobia, belonging has become an emotion that conditions how migrants embrace or are alienated from the idea of South Africa as home. Through discussing four case studies of African migrants living in Johannesburg, this chapter contribution considers ways in which emotions manifest themselves in the African Diaspora in post-apartheid South Africa. The four cases emerge out of ethnographic qualitative interviews conducted in Johannesburg among African migrants between July and December 2018.
Khanyile Mlotshwa

Chapter 12. Loneliness as an Activation Strategy in Narratives of Contemporary Advertising

This chapter investigates the representation of loneliness and its use as an activation strategy within contemporary advertising in Germany, as well as the application of the deficit model of ageing as part of advertising narratives. Both quantitative and qualitative media content analyses are employed to examine a selection of German print advertisements featuring adult characters aged 18 years and over, with a particular focus on adults aged 50+. The study uses inter alia the Campaign to End Loneliness (CEL) Measurement Tool to derive its variables for the quantitative insight and identifies two narrative clusters through its qualitative analysis in which loneliness is strategically employed in the contemporary advertisement.
Dennis A. Olsen

Chapter 13. Lonely Indian Housewives: Gendered Portrayal of Loneliness in Bollywood Cinema

The Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, or Bollywood, has been producing films on many themes, with genres ranging from romance to action thrillers. While romance has been a staple ingredient of many Bollywood blockbusters, the nature of romance has changed and one has witnessed the slow erasure of the family of the protagonists into the background, portraying them as individuals in their own right. On-screen representation of loneliness in Bollywood films has adopted certain conventional tropes such as artists living reclusive lives, lonely men looking for a purpose and lonely housewives. These three tropes have their own specific settings such as lonely men often finding purpose through romantic association with the female lead (thereby rendering the women as passive tools) or the lonely housewives “finding themselves” by being seductresses in relationships outside marriage. Broadly speaking, Bollywood cinema grounds loneliness, more often than not, in the context and background of (often absence of) romantic relationships. This paper seeks to examine the gendered portrayal of loneliness on-screen through two Bollywood films—The Lunchbox (2013) and English Vinglish (2012). Both films involve lonely Indian housewives (evidently not receiving the validation and love they expect from their husbands) though while the latter focusses on the housewife as the key protagonist, the former once again employs the housewife as a cure to the male protagonist’s loneliness. Importantly, both are significant departures from the ‘housewife as a seductress’ trope while food plays a key role in shaping the identity of the two women. Through our paper, we argue that loneliness, as it plays out on-screen, is a gendered idea, particularly in the case of the tropes employed to portray the emotion. The spaces (both physical and social) occupied by men and women in their loneliness as well as their relationships which are portrayed on-screen vary greatly. While there is on-screen acceptance of men finding “themselves” with the help of women, women protagonists are portrayed within the borders of their (marital) relationship and the protagonist’s conflict resolution is scrutinised on the basis of how far they have stuck to the relationship’s boundaries or gone past them. Invariably, the social milieu and the constraints imposed by narrow gender roles are replicated on-screen even while portraying the emotion of loneliness.
Arundhathi, Sarah Zia

Combating Loneliness


Chapter 14. Online Connectedness as a Cure for Loneliness?

Online social networks have become a central platform for fostering interpersonal relationships among young people. This article seeks to scrutinize whether social relationships on online social networks foster meaningful social connections: Do they relieve feelings of loneliness for those who are otherwise alone, or do they create imaginary connections that only conceal feelings of loneliness. In this chapter, we will analyze the concept of loneliness, regarding its philosophical and psychological/sociological aspects in general, and specifically, expressions of loneliness in a digital environment. We will examine, on the basis of associated scholarly literature, the concept of connectedness, which is considered as one of the dominant elements of digital environments. We will try to answer the question as to whether collaboration on social networks indeed nurtures significant social relationships and enables the individual to become less lonely.
Bina Nir, Yaron Ariel

Chapter 15. Biodigital Influencers: A New Alternative for Fighting Loneliness

Social networks are primarily about developing relationships with friends or with admired people, and sometimes influencers. Recently, companies specialised in computer-generated imagery have started to develop a new type of human-like creations, who are often taken to the level of influencer. Because of their ambiguous identities, they have been named biodigital influencers. Followers connected with them on Instagram experience surprise and doubt, and this can help them to handle loneliness. Through a semantic text analysis of followers’ comments, our findings reveal, among other things, that followers get to express feelings of empathy in the community. Indeed, the stimulus of novelty provokes a positive reinforcement. With their strategy of secrecy, biodigital influencers create and encourage a community of questioning, which keeps the feeling of loneliness among followers at bay.
Marie-Nathalie Jauffret, Vanessa Landaverde Kastberg

Chapter 16. Loneliness and Social Media: A Qualitative Investigation of Young People’s Motivations for Use, and Perceptions of Social Networking Sites

Ubiquitous and easy to use, social media platforms have changed the way we communicate, make new friends or maintain old friendships. Unexpectedly, in the age of enhanced social interconnectivity, people feel lonelier than ever (Turkle 2011), especially young adults (16–24 years old) who are avid social media users are frequently reported to be significantly lonelier than any other age group (Office for National Statistics 2018). This chapter advances our understanding of the relationship between loneliness and social networking websites (SNSs) use and aims to put an end to the debate regarding whether or not SNS use is making young adults lonelier. This is the first research in the UK that analyses and compares the way different SNSs (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat) can increase or decrease loneliness in young adults.
Bianca Fox


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