Mapping Loneliness

For this project I was interested in studying virtual social geographies and how people construct online communities that have no basis in physical space or time. People from opposite ends of the world are able to come together, connect, and create a separate social identity, which is new and different from any older form of communication. With the advance of technology, people are more connected to each other than ever before. We use social media platforms like Twitter in the hopes of sharing our experiences and thoughts with people. As such, we create virtual communities of friends we can interact with. Despite this ideal, studies have shown that the virtual communities we create can often leave us unfulfilled and feeling more lonely than before.



Using Processing, I created an interface to compare messages about loneliness to the number of followers that user had. The hope was to gain insight into how people harness digital outlets to express their feelings of loneliness. I wanted to see if there was a correlation between a user's loneliness and the size of the virtual community that followed each user.


What I found was that some people use social media as a way to cope with this physical loneliness while others proactively prevent it by maintaining social interactions despite distance and time restrictions. We are constantly supported by our virtual communities of friends, and yet, sometimes this loneliness persists. Expressions of loneliness were prevalent for users with tens of followers and for users with tens of thousands of followers as well. This discovery brings into question how truly productive these virtual relationships are in our lives and reminds us all that in this day and age we are never truly alone.