Skip to main content Accessibility help

How Social Are Social Media? A Review of Online Social Behaviour and Connectedness

  • Tracii Ryan (a1), Kelly A. Allen (a2), DeLeon L. Gray (a3) and Dennis M. McInerney (a4)

The use of social media is rapidly increasing, and one of the major discussions of the 21st century revolves around how the use of these applications will impact on the social relationships of users. To contribute to this discussion, we present a brief narrative review highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of social media use on three key aspects of social connectedness: social capital, sense of community, and loneliness. The results indicate that using social media can increase social capital, lead to the formation of friendships and communities, and reduce loneliness. However, some social media site users may experience weakening friendships, online ostracism, and heightened loneliness. Therefore, we argue that the use of social media has contradictory effects on social connectedness. Moreover, the direction of these outcomes is contingent upon who is using the site and how they are using it. Based on these arguments, possible directions for future research are discussed. It is recommended that discourse be continued relating to the association between online social behaviour and connectedness, as this will enable researchers to establish whether the positive outcomes of social media use outweigh the negative.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      How Social Are Social Media? A Review of Online Social Behaviour and Connectedness
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      How Social Are Social Media? A Review of Online Social Behaviour and Connectedness
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      How Social Are Social Media? A Review of Online Social Behaviour and Connectedness
      Available formats
Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE: Tracii Ryan, Faculty of Education, Monash University, 29 Ancora Imparo Way, Clayton Campus VIC 3800, Australia. Email:
Hide All
Ahn, D., & Shin, D. (2013). Is the social use of media for seeking connectedness or for avoiding social isolation? Mechanisms underlying media use and subjective well-being. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29, 24532462.
Ai, M. (2013). How computers and internet use influences mental health: A five-wave latent growth model. Asian Journal of Communication, 23, 175190.
Allen, K.A., Ryan, T., Gray, D.L., McInerney, D.M., & Waters, L. (2014). Social media use and social connectedness in adolescents: The positives and the pitfalls. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 31, 1831.
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003). Loneliness and internet use. Computers in Human Behaviour, 19, 7180.
Bargh, J.A., McKenna, K.Y.A., & Fitzsimons, G.M. (2002). Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the ‘true self’ on the internet. The Journal of Social Issues, 58, 3348.
Bandiera, O., Barankay, I., & Rasul, I. (2008). Social capital in the workplace: Evidence on its formation and consequences. Labour Economics, 15, 724748.
Baumeister, R.F. & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497529.
Blanchard, A.L., & Markus, M. (2004). The experienced ‘sense’ of a virtual community: Characteristics and processes. Databases for Advances in Information Systems, 35, 6579.
Bohn, A, Buchta, C, Hornik, K., & Mair, P. (2014). Making friends and communicating on Facebook: Implications for the access to social capital. Social Networks, 37, 2941.
boyd, d., & Ellison, N.B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 210230.
Caplan, S.E. (2006). A social skill account of problematic internet use. Journal of Communication, 55, 721736.
Coleman, J.S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital [Supplemental material]. The American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95S120.
Cornwell, B., Laumann, E.O., & Schumm, L.P. (2008). The social connectedness of older adults: A national profile. American Sociological Review, 73, 185203.
Desjarlais, M., & Willoughby, T. (2010). A longitudinal study of the relation between adolescent boys’ and girls’ computer use with friends and friendship quality: Support for the social compensation or the rich-get-richer hypothesis? Computers in Human Behaviour, 26, 896905.
Downey, G., & Feldman, S. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 13271343.
Ellison, N.B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook ‘friends’: Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 11431168.
Facebook. (2016, September). Stats. Retrieved from
Green, B.N., Johnson, C.D., & Adams, A. (2001). Writing narrative literature reviews for peer-reviewed journals: Secrets of the trade. Journal of Sports Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, 15, 519.
Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G.A., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-face or Facebook: Can social connectedness be derived online? Computers in Human Behaviour, 29, 604609.
große Deters, F., & Mehl, M.R. (2013). Does posting Facebook status updates increase or decrease loneliness? An online social networking experiment. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 579586.
Gruzd, A., Wellman, B., & Takhteyev, Y. (2011). Imagining Twitter as an imagined community. American Behavioural Scientist, 55, 12941318.
Hart, M. (2011). A study on the motives of high school and undergraduate college students for using the social network site Facebook (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3439733)
Henderson, M., Snyder, I., & Beale, D. (2013). Social media for collaborative learning: A review of school literature. Australian Educational Computing, 28, 115.
Holladay, S., Crutcher, K., Gustavson, K., Jones, J., Laughlin, L., & McKown, S. (1997). Older adults’ motives for mediated interpersonal communication: An examination of telephone communication and loneliness. Communication Reports, 10, 173183.
Jin, B. (2013). How lonely people use and perceive Facebook. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29, 24632470.
La Greca, A.M., & Lopez, N. (1998). Social anxiety among adolescents: Linkages with peer relations and friendships. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 8394.
Leary, M.R., Kelly, K.M., Cottrell, C.A., & Schreindorfer, L.S. (2013). Individual differences in the need to belong: Mapping the nomological network. Journal of Personality Assessment, 95, 610624.
Lee, Z.W., Cheung, C.M.K., & Thadani, D.R. (2012). An investigation into the problematic use of Facebook. Proceedings of the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 17681776. doi:10.1109/HICSS.2012.106
Lou, L.L., Yan, Z., Nickerson, A., & McMorris, R. (2012). An examination of the reciprocal relationship of loneliness and Facebook use among first-year college students. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46, 105117.
McCoy, J.A. (1999). The influence of social connectedness on anxiety and self-esteem under conditions of stress. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 338345.
Malta, S. (2005, December). Social connectedness and health amongst older adults. Paper presented at TASA Conference, Tasmania, Australia.
Mauss, I.B., Shallcross, A.J., Troy, A.S., John, O.P., Ferrer, E., Wilhelm, F.H., & Gross, J.J. (2011). Don't hide your happiness! Positive emotion dissociation, social connectedness, and psychological functioning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 738748.
McCroskey, J.C. (1992). Reliability and validity of the Willingness to Communicate Scale. Communication Quarterly, 40, 1625.
Papacharissi, Z., & Mendelson, A. (2011). Toward a new(er) sociability: Uses, gratifications and social capital on Facebook. In Papathanassopoulos, S. (Ed.), Media perspectives for the 21st century (pp. 212230). London, UK: Routledge.
Poley, M.E., & Luo, S. (2012). Social compensation or rich-get-richer? The role of social competence in college students’ use of the internet to find a partner. Computers in Human Behaviour, 28, 414419.
Pretty, G.M., Conroy, C., Dugay, J., Fowler, K., & Williams, D. (1996). Sense of community and its relevance to adolescents of all ages. Journal of Community Psychology, 24, 365379.
Putnam, R.D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American Community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Reich, S.M. (2010). Adolescents’ sense of community on MySpace and Facebook: A mixed-methods approach. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 688705.
Russell, D. (1996). The UCLA loneliness scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment 1996; 66, 2040.
Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness and Facebook usage. Computers in Human Behaviour, 27, 16581664.
Saunders, P.L., & Chester, A. (2008). Shyness and the internet: Social problem or panacea? Computers in Human Behaviour, 24, 26492658.
Sensis. (2016). Sensis social media report 2016. Retrieved from
Sheldon, K.M., Abad, N., & Hinsch, C. A. (2011). Two-process view of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: Disconnection drives use, and connection rewards it. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 766775.
Stebbins, R.A. (2001). Exploratory research in the social sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Spiliotopoulos, T., & Oakley, I. (2013, April–May). Understanding motivations for Facebook use: Usage metrics, network structure, and privacy. Paper presented at CHI, Paris, France.
Steinfield, C., Ellison, N.B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 434445.
Stepanikova, I., Nie, N.H., & He, X. (2010). Time on the internet at home, loneliness, and life satisfaction: Evidence from panel time-diary data. Computers in Human Behaviour, 26, 329338.
Sum, S., Mathews, R.M., Pourghasem, M., & Hughes, I. (2009). Internet use as a predictor of sense of community in older people. CyberPsychology & Behaviour, 12, 235–9.
Suler, J. (2005). The online disinhibition effect. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2, 184188.
Teppers, E., Luyckx, K., Klimstra, T.A., & Goossens, L. (2014). Loneliness and Facebook motives in adolescence: A longitudinal inquiry into directionality of effect. Journal of Adolescence, 37, 691699.
Tobin, S.J., Vanman, E.J., Verreynne, M., & Saeri, A.K. (2015). Threats to belonging on Facebook: Lurking and ostracism. Social Influence, 10, 3142
Turkle, S. (2011) Alone together: Why We expect more from technology and less from each other. Philadelphia, PA: Basic Books.
Valkenburg, P.M., & Peter, J. (2007). Online communication and adolescent well-being: Testing the stimulation versus the displacement hypothesis. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 11691182.
van Bel, D., Smolders, K., Ijsselsteijn, W., & De Kort, Y. (2009). Social connectedness: Concept and measurement. In Callaghan, V., Kameas, A., Reyes, A., Royo, D., & Weber, M. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Environments (pp. 6774). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: IOS Press.
van Bel, D., Smolders, K., Ijsselsteijn, W., & de Kort, Y. (2011, July). Great minds think alike: I-sharing promotes social connectedness. Paper presented at the European Association for Social Psychology, Stockholm, Sweden.
Vitak, J, Ellison, N.B., & Steinfield, C. (2011). The ties that bond: Re-examining the relationship between Facebook use and bonding social capital. In Proceedings of the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (pp. 110). Kauai, HI: Computer Science Press.
Williams, K.D., Cheung, C.K., & Choi, W. (2000). Cyberostracism: Effects of being ignored over the internet. Social Psychology, 79, 748762.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Relationships Research
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 1838-0956
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-relationships-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed