VOLUME 5 (2003) - ISSUE 10 (WINTER)

Who Makes Friends over the Internet? Alternatives to Loneliness and Virtual Community

by Daniel RUSSELL, Emily FLOM, Kelli GARDNER, Carolyn CUTRONA and Robert HESSLING


In this chapter, the findings of an empirical research on the use of the Internet as a way to alleviate loneliness are presented. To investigate who forms online friendships, a large sample of college students attending a Midwestern university was studied. Several demographic and personality variables (extraversion, neuroticism, loneliness, self-esteem, and shyness) were analyzed as predictors of Internet usage and the development of online friendships. Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that measures of Internet usage, especially visiting chat rooms and using the Internet for fun, predicted the development of online friendships. In addition, students who were high in neuroticism were more likely to make online friends. Being male, a minority student, or shy, predicted developing Internet friendships indirectly, through their influence on use of the Internet. These results suggest that use of the Internet serves to expand users’ social networks, especially the networks of shy and anxious (neurotic) individuals. 


Loneliness - Internet - Neuroticism - Shyness


Daniel W. RUSSELL is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research at Iowa State University, Iowa,  USA.

Emily K. FLOM is currently a medical student in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Des Moines University.

Kelli A. GARDNER a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University. 

Carolyn E. CUTRONA is a professor in the Department of Psychology and Associate Director of the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research at Iowa State University. 

Robert S. HESSLING an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 


Author Name (Year), “Title”, in: The International Scope Review, Volume Number, Issue Number, TSCF Editions, Brussels.


This contribution is a chapter of the book edited by Patrick HUNOUT, The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries


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