The emergence of social media within the past decade has allowed individuals to be more connected than ever before and receive new information instantaneously. However, social media usage has the ability to negatively impact user’s subjective well-being. These effects on well-being can vary depending on how social media is employed, either in an active or a passive manner, as well as whether or not one-way para-social relationships with social media personalities (e.g., Lady Gaga) are present. This current study investigated how the effects of passive versus active social media use and the prevalence of one’s para-social relationships influenced their reported feelings of loneliness, as well as the potential effects of state self-esteem, social comparison, psychological distress, and FOMO (fear of missing out). This study conducted a survey that contained an experimental essay writing section followed by a questionnaire. Results indicated that active social media use predicted decreased feelings of loneliness, while passive use and strength of one’s para-social relationships did not impact one’s loneliness. Additionally, participants in the para-social writing condition experienced a non-significant decrease in loneliness compared to the control condition. Active use partially mediated the relationship between FOMO and loneliness, in which FOMO led to more active usage and, in turn, decreased loneliness, while the direct effect of FOMO on loneliness was positive. These findings demonstrate that active social media usage can be beneficial for improving user’s feelings of loneliness, and that para-social relationships also have the potential to indirectly lead to well-being benefits through active use. This study could suggest that social media use has the ability to improve overall well-being when used in certain ways, which is especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic when society is relying on online platforms more so than ever before.


Wilhelms, Evan




Arts and Humanities


Social Media, Para-social Relationships, Subjective Well-being

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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