Loneliness and the use of social media to follow celebrities: A moderating role of social presence

Loneliness and the use of social media to follow celebrities: A moderating role of social presence

G Model SOCSCI-1561; No. of Pages 9 ARTICLE IN PRESS The Social Science Journal xxx (2018) xxx–xxx Contents lists available at ScienceDirect The So...

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G Model SOCSCI-1561; No. of Pages 9

ARTICLE IN PRESS The Social Science Journal xxx (2018) xxx–xxx

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

The Social Science Journal journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/soscij

Loneliness and the use of social media to follow celebrities: A moderating role of social presence Jihyun Kim a,∗ , Jinyoung Kim b , Hocheol Yang c a b c

Nicholson School of Communication and Media, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 161344, Orlando, FL 32816, USA College of Communications, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history: Received 5 December 2017 Received in revised form 18 December 2018 Accepted 20 December 2018 Available online xxx Keywords: Celebrity Loneliness Parasocial relationship Social media Social presence

a b s t r a c t Because social media provide users with the possibility of an easy way to communicate with celebrities in society, it has become a more common practice to follow celebrities through social media. However, there exists few studies that examine how people’s individual characteristics are related to their celebrity-following behavior. In this regard, the current study examines whether celebrity followers’ loneliness is associated with the following behavior of their favorite celebrity. Data were collected through an online survey (N = 210). Primary findings suggest that celebrity followers’ loneliness is positively related to frequent visits of their favorite celebrity’s social media, greater social-interpersonal motive for following the celebrity, and greater enjoyment of learning about personal life stories of the celebrity. Social presence is found to be a significant moderator that can intensify more favorable parasocial relationship perceptions with the celebrity. © 2019 Western Social Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Social media have been increasingly used among celebrity followers who want to know more about celebrities because users do not have to obtain permission to access the celebrities’ social media profiles to review their pictures and videos (Bond, 2016; Marwick & Boyd, 2011; Stever & Lawson, 2013). Before the advent of social media, information about celebrities has been delivered to the public mostly through mass media such as television, radio, and newspapers. That is, individuals who had a strong interest in or admiration for celebrities could only receive such celebrity-related information from mass media (Click, Lee, & Holladay, 2013). However, as newer media, such as social media, offer users a more open and direct way

∗ Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (J. Kim), [email protected] (J. Kim), [email protected] (H. Yang).

of communication with others, celebrities started sharing their life stories openly with their followers through social media (Brau, 2013). Hence, any individuals who wish to know about their favorite celebrities can easily find a way to connect them in a mediated platform. The extant research notes that individual differences are important to consider in the understanding of people’s media use (Oliver & Krakowiak, 2009); particularly, personal characteristics are related to social media use (e.g., Ross et al., 2009). Then, a question that naturally follows in the context of the current investigation is that if there is any particular individual characteristic among followers that may play a role in consuming celebrity’s social media. Research findings on parasocial relationships in traditional media imply that one’s feeling of loneliness is particularly related to media use. Specifically, lonely individuals are found to rely on media (Rubin & Perse, 1987) and consume a heavy amount (e.g., Rubin, Perse, & Powell, 1985) to meet their interpersonal needs.

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Although the context is not about celebrity’s social media, an increasing body of literature has reported the same phenomenon in the overall use of social media. Specifically, lonely individuals have been reported to turn to social media to compensate for the lack of social skills and human connections with others in face-to-face settings (e.g., Kraut et al., 2002; Song et al., 2014). As the meta-analysis (Song et al., 2014) found, individuals who expressed higher levels of loneliness and lower social support tend to use social media more often compared to those who felt less loneliness and received greater social support. A celebrity–follower relationship can be thought of as another important human connection, which would reveal similar traits and patterns of the relationship. That is, celebrity followers’ loneliness might be related to their usage of celebrities’ social media to a greater extent. However, there is little evidence that can support this conjecture. Further, it is unclear what motives are related to lonely individuals’ following behaviors and how they feel about their experiences as they learn more about the celebrity. Considering the growing use of social media among celebrities and their influence on followers and society (e.g., Jin & Phua, 2014; Marwick & Boyd, 2011), it is worth examining the dynamics and nature of a celebrity–follower relationship in the domain of social media. In this regard, the current study examines how celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to their use of and experiences with their favorite celebrity’s social media. Research indicates that the theoretical notion of social presence plays a crucial role for facilitating positive experiences in a mediated environment (Biocca, Harms, & Burgoon, 2003). Thus, the current study also examines how social presence plays a role in the understanding of celebrity followers’ relationship perceptions toward their favorite celebrity on social media.

lonely individuals are found to use social media more heavily compared to those who feel less lonely (e.g., Rauch, Strobel, Bella, Odachowski, & Bloom, 2014). Through a meta-analysis, Song et al. (2014) found a causal relationship indicating that loneliness leads to more Facebook use. That is, lonely people tend to use social media because it provides them with more opportunities to interact with others, which might be lacking in the offline life. Thanks to social media, people can easily learn about celebrities’ professional and/or personal life stories and create some type of perceived relationships with them. In a popular sense, celebrity has a meaning of ‘a famous person’, but fundamentally, they are also normal people living their ordinary life with more popularity than others (Dyer, 2007). In that sense, mediated interpersonal relationships between people and celebrities (media personae) are similar to typical face-to-face social relationships (Rubin & Perse, 1987). Research indicates that many celebrities use social media as a means of communicating with their followers (e.g., Jin & Phua, 2014). By acknowledging the popularity of social media use between celebrities and followers, the current study examines how celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to the following behavior of their favorite celebrity’s social media. In particular, based on the social compensation model and the existing empirical evidence (e.g., Kraut et al., 2002; Song et al., 2014), the current study predicts that celebrity followers’ loneliness is positively related to the usage of their favorite celebrity’s social media. Taken together, the following hypothesis is proposed.

2. Loneliness and social media use

Uses and gratifications theory (U&G) argues that individuals are an active audience, emphasizing the active role of a media consumer in their use and choice of media (Rubin, 2009; Katz, Haas, & Gurevitch, 1973). In particular, the U&G theory highlights that media users have willpower to resist what media propagates and they autonomously choose a particular medium to gratify their own needs. That is, individuals are highly motivated and proactively select a specific medium to satisfy their physical, social, or psychosocial needs (Katz et al., 1973; Rubin, 2009). To further understand the core element of U&G theory that audience is active and media use is goal-oriented (e.g., Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974), Blumler (1979) explains the notion of being active in various ways such as utility, intentionality, and selectivity. Utility refers to the idea that media has many different uses for people and people put media to those uses. Intentionality is concerned with the idea that media consumption can be directed by people’s motivations. Selectivity refers to the idea that people use media based on their existing interests. The core element of the theory provides the framework for the understanding of why people consume social media. Raacke and Bonds-Raacke (2008) examined why users are attracted to social media and found that the most salient motives are to stay in touch with their existing friends, to

2.1. Lonely individuals’ social media usage The extant research has documented two models that explain people’s behaviors and uses of the Internet: the social enhancement model and the social compensation model. The social enhancement model explains that individuals who perceive their offline social networks as well developed tend to go online to further amplify their social resources and extend their social networks (Kraut et al., 2002). In particular, the model posits that extroverted and outgoing individuals are motivated to go online to enhance their social resources and networks (Ross et al., 2009; Valkenburg, Schouten, & Peter, 2005). Another model, which is more relevant to the current study’s context, is the social compensation model. The model holds the idea that individuals who lack social connections offline tend to go online to compensate for what they lack in an offline life (Kraut et al., 2002). That is, the model supports the claim that introverted, socially anxious, and shy individuals are more likely to use the Internet because they can substitute online networks for lack of offline social networks (e.g., Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2003; Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). Specifically,

H1. Celebrity followers’ loneliness is positively related to the usage of their favorite celebrity’s social media. 2.2. Loneliness and motives for social media use

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post or view pictures, and to make new friends online. In another research, Park, Kee, and Valenzuela (2009) found that social media help users socialize with others and seek information about social issues. Generally, studies have found that information and social-interpersonal motives are primary reasons for social media use (e.g., Krämer, Winter, Benninghoff, & Gallus, 2015; Raacke & BondsRaacke, 2008; Schubert & Seyffert, 2017). On social media, a variety of stories are being shared. According to social penetration theory (Altman & Taylor, 1973), individuals “voluntarily and intentionally reveal about themselves to others, including their thoughts, feelings, and experiences” (Tang & Wang, 2012, p. 245). This act of self-disclosure varies in terms of topic and the degree of revelation about each topic (Altman & Taylor, 1973). Thus, media users learn about a variety of aspects of social media owners because self-disclosure appears in diverse forms revealing a variety of topics such as profession (i.e., professional self-disclosure) and personal life including families and friends (i.e., personal self-disclosure). The same phenomenon seems to appear in the context of celebrity’s social media. With regard to motives, research has demonstrated that primary motives for following celebrity’s social media are related to interpersonal and information seeking motives (e.g., Schubert & Seyffert, 2017). With regard to self-disclosed stories on social media, research has addressed different types of stories that celebrities share on their social media; professional (e.g., concert, new TV shows) and personal events (e.g., birthday party, family reunion) (e.g., Stever & Lawson, 2013). In this regard, it is questionable if celebrity followers’ personal characteristics such as loneliness would play a role in their following behavior. However, the extant research has not clearly addressed this. Indirectly, part of these questions might be answered by the perspective of the social compensation model. As addressed earlier, the social compensation model posits the idea that people who lack social resources offline tend to go online to compensate for what they lack (Kraut et al., 2002). From this perspective, it is presumable that lonely individuals’ following behavior of their favorite celebrity’s social media are motivated with gratifying social-interpersonal needs rather than information needs. Similarly, lonely followers may enjoy learning about their favorite celebrity’s personal life stories rather than professional life stories to fulfill social feelings they may lack in the follower’s life. Thus far, little has addressed this issue in the celebrity’s social media context. In this regard, the current research aims to fill this gap and advance the understanding of social media research in the celebrity–follower relationship. Specifically, based on the extant research, the current study focuses on two particular motives (information motive and social-interpersonal motive) and enjoyment of learning about celebrity’s professional and personal life stories. Taken together, the following research questions are being sought. RQ1a–b: How is celebrity followers’ loneliness related to (a) information motive and (b) social-interpersonal motive to follow their favorite celebrity’s social media?

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RQ2a–b: How is celebrity followers’ loneliness related to enjoyment of learning about their favorite celebrity’s (a) professional and (b) personal life stories shared on social media?

3. Social presence In a mediated environment, people engage in social interactions with diverse groups of interaction partners such as people they have preexisting relationships with (e.g., friends, family) and people they interact with in a mediated environment only (e.g., celebrities, computer game partners in cyber space). Whether the interaction is one-way (e.g., reading a post on social media) or two-way (e.g., exchanging messages on social media), people might experience a certain degree of social connections to others in this mediated environment. Although their interaction partners are not physically around or present in the same space, people might feel as if they were socially around. This type of experiences can be understood as a feeling of social presence. Social presence is part of presence experiences (Lee, 2004). Although the universal definition of social presence has not been agreed upon, it is generally understood as a feeling of socially and psychologically being connected to the other social actor without realizing the existence of the medium (Biocca et al., 2003; Lee, 2004). Acknowledging the importance of social presence for effective experiences in a mediated environment (e.g., Biocca et al., 2003), the notion has received much attention from scholars in diverse contexts (e.g., Lee, 2013; Kim, Merrill, & Song, 2018a; Kim, Song, & Lee, 2018b; Kim, Song, & Luo, 2016; Song et al., 2014; Song, Kim, & Park, 2018; Spence, Westerman, Edwards, & Edwards, 2014; Westernan, Spence, & Lin, 2015). Considering that the core nature of social presence is in line with the feeling of social connection to others in a mediated environment, the notion is particularly important for lonely individuals online. As argued earlier, the social compensation model indicates that lonely people go online to compensate for the lack of companionship in their offline life (Kraut et al., 2002). Supporting this argument, empirical research has documented positive associations between loneliness and social media use (e.g., Caplan, 2007; Lee, Jung, Kim, & Kim, 2006; MorahanMartin & Schumacher, 2003; Shapira, Goldsmith, Keck, Khosla, & McElroy, 2000). However, an important question is whether the use of social media would help lonely individuals develop positive relationship perceptions with others connected online. Although there has been extensive research in this area, the findings are not consistent about the effects of media consumption on lonely individuals. For example, some research indicates that lonely individuals tend to use the Internet heavily, but this heavy consumption tends to cause detrimental effects such as PIU (Problematic Internet Use) (Caplan, 2007; Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2003). Somewhat differently, other research indicates that the effects of lonely individuals’ social media use are not always

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harmful; it can be either positive or negative depending on media use patterns and experiences (Frison & Eggermont, 2016). The extant research indicates that social presence is an important factor that could enhance benefits of going online (e.g., Kehrwald, 2008; Kim, Kwon, & Cho, 2011; Kim et al., 2016). For example, Kehrwald (2008) discovered that when people have familiar interaction partners in a mediated environment, which could create more comfortable atmosphere, they can “overcome feelings of loneliness or isolation” (p. 98) and create socially safe space. Further, Kim et al. (2018b) found that lonely individuals enjoy media experiences when they feel strong social presence of others, which indicates that social presence can facilitate lonely individuals’ media experiences. Pertaining to the celebrity–follower relationship context, the study particularly focuses on parasocial relationship as an important media experience. Parasocial relationship refers to a fictional, one-sided, and nonreciprocal relationship in which a person thinks she/he knows someone well, but in actuality, that person does not know the other (Rubin & McHugh, 1987). This type of relationships often appears in the dynamics of celebrity–follower relationships (e.g., Rubin et al., 1985; Stever & Lawson, 2013). Extant research has attempted to examine how loneliness is related to parasocial relationships, but findings have been somewhat perplexing. Traditional media research has reported that loneliness is positively related to media consumption (e.g., Rubin et al., 1985; Rubin & Perse, 1987), but loneliness has not been found to be significantly related to parasocial relationships (e.g., Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001; Canary & Spitzberg, 1993; Rubin et al., 1985). These findings imply that lonely individuals’ media consumption does not guarantee that they will develop positive parasocial relationship perceptions. In other words, the relationship between loneliness and parasocial relationship might be moderated by other factors. In all, research informs that social media use could produce either positive or negative outcomes (Frison & Eggermont, 2016), and social presence would play a role in negating the harmful effects of going online for lonely media users and maximizing potential benefits of going online (Kim et al., 2018b). In this regard, the current study predicts that social presence would play a role as a moderator, such that when lonely people feel stronger social presence they would have more positive parasocial relationship perceptions. Taken together, the following hypothesis is proposed. H2. The relationship between loneliness and parasocial relationship is moderated by social presence. 4. Method 4.1. Participants Participants were recruited from undergraduate communication courses at a large public Midwestern university in the United States. A total of 344 participants initially responded to the survey. Among those individuals, 210

participants who reported that they follow their favorite celebrities on social media were eligible for this study, while others were screened out. Among the 210 participants, there were more females (n = 149: 71.3%) than males (n = 60: 28.7%), and one individual (0.5%) did not identify biological sex. The average age was 19.20 years (SD = 1.873). A majority of the participants were Caucasian (n = 166: 79%) followed by Asian (n = 17: 8.1%), African American (n = 7: 3.3%), Hispanic or Latino (n = 5: 2.4%), and other ethnic groups (n = 15: 7.1%). 4.2. Procedure An online survey was conducted with a universitylicensed survey tool (www.qualtrics.com). Followed by the university’s IRB approval, a primary researcher received permission for student recruitment from a course director. Then, a recruiting email with a link to the online survey was sent to potential participants via the university email account. Once participants opened the survey, they were asked to read and sign off the informed consent form before starting the survey. At the start of the survey, participants were asked if they follow their favorite celebrity on any social media accounts of the celebrity. Eligible participants were led to complete the entire survey questionnaire. Those who were not eligible for the current study were led to a different survey questionnaire, which is not related to the current investigation. Eligible participants were asked to think of one particular celebrity that they are following on social media and provide the celebrity’s name and primary occupation. These questions were asked to prime participants to focus on this particular celebrity. Then, participants were asked to answer the rest of the survey questions based on this particular celebrity. Participation was voluntary, and all participants received course credit. Confidentiality and anonymity were guaranteed. 4.3. Measures The survey questionnaire included a set of items measuring key variables for the study. Loneliness (˛ = 0.83) was measured with six items selected from the UCLA loneliness scale (e.g., “I lack companionship,” “I feel isolated from others,” “I feel left out”) (Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980). Responses were obtained on a 4-point Likert-type scale (1: Never, 4: Often). Enjoyment assessed celebrity followers’ enjoyment of learning about their favorite celebrity’s life stories shared on social media. As addressed earlier, two types of enjoyment were measured: enjoyment of learning about professional life stories and enjoyment of learning about personal life stories. First, participants were given with a list of examples that included different types of celerity’s life stories shared on social media to help them understand the distinction between the two types. For example, professional life stories refer to social media postings that include work schedules (e.g., concert, show); while personal life stories refer to social media postings that include friends, family, hobbies, and other personal life-related

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Table 1 Correlation.

1 Social media consumption 2 Loneliness 3 Usage of their favorite celebrity’s social media 4 Information motive 5 Social-interpersonal motive 6 Celebrity’s professional life stories 7 Personal life stories of the celebrity 8 Social presence 9 Parasocial relationship perception

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

1 0.07 0.22** 0.25*** 0.16* 0.17* 0.30*** 0.10 0.28**

0.21** 0.11 0.23** 0.14 0.16* −0.18* 0.14*

0.35** 0.44*** 0.26*** 0.28*** 0.03 0.39***

0.49*** 0.62*** 0.56*** 0.19* 0.55***

0.29*** 0.26*** 0.09 0.43***

0.75*** 0.35*** 0.51***

0.28*** 0.51***

0.29***

1

Note: *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001.

events. Then, participants were asked to indicate how much they enjoy learning about these stories of celebrities on social media. Enjoyment of learning about professional life stories (˛ = 0.94) and enjoyment of learning about personal life stories of the celebrity (˛ = 0.83) were measured with seven items, respectively, adopted from previous research (Tamborini, Bowman, Eden, Grizzard, & Organ, 2010) (e.g., “enjoyable,” “fun,” “entertaining”). Responses were obtained on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree). Next, as addressed earlier, two types of motives for following the celebrity’s social media were assessed: informational and social-interpersonal. Information seeking motive (˛ = 0.86) was assessed with four items (e.g., “I follow this celebrity on social media because I get information on what this celebrity is doing that I can’t get elsewhere”). Social-interpersonal motive (˛ = 0.80) was measured with two items (e.g., “I follow this celebrity on social media because I can respond to what this celebrity has to say”). Measures were slightly modified from Frederick, Lim, Clavio, and Walsh (2012) for a better fit to the current study’s context. Responses were obtained on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree). Parasocial relationship (˛ = 0.80) was assessed with five items selected from Rubin et al. (1985) (e.g., “This celebrity makes me feel comfortable, as if I am with friends,” “I feel that this celebrity is like my friend”). All of the responses for motives and parasocial relationship were obtained on a 7point Likert-type scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree). Social presence (˛ = 0.85) was measured with eight items using a semantic differential scale adopted from existing research (Lombard & Ditton, 2000; Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976) (e.g., I feel that this celebrity is “unsociable–sociable,” “. . . unemotional–emotional,” “. . . impersonal–personal”). Responses were obtained on a 7point semantic differential scale. Usage of the favorite celebrity’s social media (˛ = 0.93) was measured with eight items adopted from Rosen, Whaling, Carrier, Cheever, and Rokkum (2013). Example items included such as “checking my favorite celebrity’s social media,” “commenting on postings, status updates, or photos on the celebrity’s social media”. Usage of follower’s own social media (˛ = 0.89) was also measured with items adopted from Rosen et al. (2013) (e.g., “checking my social media,” “commenting on postings, status updates, or pho-

tos on my social media”). Responses were obtained on a 10-point Likert type scale (1 = Never, 10 = All the time).

5. Results When examining the relationship between celebrity followers’ loneliness and their experiences about the favorite celebrity’s social media, an important aspect that should be taken into consideration is that celebrity followers’ usage of the celebrity’s social media is not extension of that of their own social media. In other words, some people may argue that when people are consuming their own social media, they may have a high chance to click on celebrity’s social media because a posting about a celebrity appears or someone is talking about the celebrity on social media. To avoid any potential issue, the current study controlled for followers’ usage of their own social media. Before testing the hypotheses, a correlation analysis was conducted. See Table 1. To test H1, RQa–b, and RQ2a–b, a series of regression tests were conducted. Usage of followers’ social media (control variable) was entered in the first step, and loneliness was entered in the second step. Findings are presented based on the results from the second step, which controls for usage of followers’ social media. H1 predicted that loneliness is related to the usage of the favorite celebrity’s social media. A regression test found that there is a positive relationship [R2 = 0.04, F(2, 196) = 9.10, ˇ = 0.21, p < 0.01]. Thus, H1 was supported. RQ1a–b sought to ask about how loneliness is related to different motives: information (RQ1a) and socialinterpersonal (RQ1b). Results found that loneliness is not related to information motive [R2 = 0.01, F(2, 199) = 1.86, ˇ = 0.09, p > 0.05]. However, a positive relationship was found between loneliness and social-interpersonal motive [R2 = 0.05, F(2, 197) = 10.73, ˇ = 0.23, p < 0.01]. With regard to RQ2a–b, which examined celebrity followers’ enjoyment of learning about the favorite celebrity’s life stories shared on social media, a set of regression tests revealed the following results. Loneliness was not significantly related to enjoyment of learning about the celebrity’s professional life stories [R2 = 0.01, F(2, 195) = 2.75, ˇ = 0.12, p > 0.05]. However, loneliness was positively related to enjoyment of learning about personal life stories of the celebrity [R2 = 0.02, F(2, 197) = 4.07, ˇ = 0.14, p < 0.05]. See Table 2.

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Table 2 Loneliness and celebrity’s’ social media experiences. Loneliness t

Adj. R2

ˇ

H1: Usage of the celebrity’s social media Social media consumption (control) Loneliness

2.79 3.02

0.19** 0.21**

RQ1a: Information motive Social media consumption (control) Loneliness

3.46 1.36

0.24*** 0.09

RQ1b: Social-interpersonal motive Social media consumption (control) Loneliness

1.95 3.28

0.13 0.23**

RQ2a: Enjoyment of the celebrity’s professional life stories Social media consumption (control) Loneliness

2.31 1.66

0.16* 0.12

RQ2b: Enjoyment of the celebrity’s personal life stories Social media consumption (control) Loneliness

4.31 2.02

0.29*** 0.14*

R2 change

**

0.08

0.04

0.06**

0.01

0.06**

0.00

0.03*

0.01

0.10*

0.02

Note 1: *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01, ***p < 0.001. Note 2: Statistical information from Step2 is presented in the Table (step1: control variable; step2: loneliness added). Table 3 Moderating role of social presence between loneliness and PSR.

H2: Moderation effect of social presence Social media consumption (control) Loneliness Social presence Loneliness × social presence

b

SE

t

LLCI

LLCI

0.11 −1.06 −0.25 0.28

0.03 0.56 0.25 0.12

3.35** −1.88 −1.02 2.30*

0.05 −2.16 −0.74 0.04

0.18 0.05 0.23 0.51

Note 1: *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01. Note 2: Results are from PROCESS (Model 1).

H2 predicted that social presence would moderate the relationship between loneliness and parasocial relationship. In order to test H2, PROCESS macro (Hayes, 2017) was used in a simple moderator model (Model 1). The procedure was based on 5000 bootstrap samples, and results were interpreted based on 95% of confidence interval (CI). Followers’ usage of their own social media was entered as a covariate. The result found a significant moderation effect of social presence. When examining loneliness and social presence on parasocial relationship, neither loneliness (B = −1.06, p > 0.05) nor social presence (B = −0.25, p > 0.05) was significantly related to parasocial relationship. However, the interaction between loneliness and social presence revealed a significant relationship (B = 0.28, p < 0.05). This finding implies that when lonely celebrity followers feel stronger social presence of the celebrity, they experience more positive parasocial relationship perceptions with the favorite celebrity. H2 was supported. See Table 3. 6. Discussion This study examined loneliness of celebrity followers and their experiences with the favorite celebrity’s social media. The results showed that celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to different experiences with the social media of their favorite celebrity. Specifically, loneliness is positively related to consumption of the celebrity’s

social media, social-interpersonal motive for visiting the celebrity’s social media, and enjoyment of learning about the celebrity’s personal life stories. The study also found that the relationship between loneliness of celebrity followers and parasocial relationship perceptions with the celebrity is moderated by a feeling of social presence. 6.1. Primary findings The current study reveals important findings. First, celebrity followers’ loneliness is positively related to frequent visits of their favorite celebrity’s social media. From a social media perspective, this finding is consistent to extant research that found the link between loneliness and social media consumption (Song et al., 2014). From a context perspective, the result is consistent to the finding that lonely individuals often use mass media to meet their interpersonal needs (e.g., Rubin & Perse, 1987). By investigating lonely individuals’ media consumption in the particular context of the favorite celebrity’s social media, the study provides meaningful findings. Next, the study finds that celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to different experiences with their favorite celebrity’s social media. Specifically, celebrity followers’ loneliness is associated with different motives for visiting the favorite celebrity’s social media. Although no association was found with regard to information motive, loneliness is found to be positively related to social-

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interpersonal motive. A similar pattern is observed with regard to the celebrity’s life stories shared on social media. Celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to enjoying learning about the favorite celebrity’s personal life aspects while no significant association was identified with regard to professional sides of the celebrity’s life. These results imply that lonely celebrity followers want to find a way to socially connect themselves to the favorite celebrity and build a personal relationship with him/her. To some degree, it supports the fundamental nature of the social compensation model. That is, lonely individuals may visit the favorite celebrity’s social media with the hope that they may get social interactions and experience social feelings that they may not fully receive in their offline life. Further, the finding that lonely celebrity followers enjoy learning about personal aspects of the favorite celebrity, not professional side, further emphasizes that celebrity followers go online for social and relational purposes. Another primary finding of this investigation is that social presence plays a role as a moderator between loneliness and a parasocial relationship perception with the celebrity. When assessing the relationship between loneliness and a parasocial relationship perception, no significant association is found. However, when social presence is taken into consideration, the result reveals an interesting pattern. As found in the results for H2, the sign of B, the product of loneliness and social presence, is positive. This implies that when lonely celebrity followers feel stronger social presence of their favorite celebrity, they tend to experience more positive parasocial relationship perceptions toward the celebrity. Although the context is different, the moderating role of social presence is in line with Kim et al. (2018b), which found that lonely individuals enjoy social TV experiences when they feel strong social presence of others during the media experience. Overall, this finding implies that only when lonely celebrity followers feel social connection (i.e., social presence) to their favorite celebrity, they develop a positive relationship perception with the celebrity.

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advances our understanding about social media research in the context of the celebrity–follower relationship. Second, the current study provides important implications for the poor-get-poorer and the poor-get-richer model drawn from the notion of the social compensation model (Kraut et al., 2002). The poor-get-poorer model describes that lonely individuals, who lack social resources in their offline life, will be lonelier online while the poorget-richer model implies that lonely individuals will feel less lonely online. This investigation found that although lonely individuals often visit their favorite celebrity’s social media, it does not guarantee a positive relationship perception unless they feel a social connection (social presence) during the mediated experience. These findings indicate that neither the poor-get-poorer nor the poor-get-richer models works in a simple way. Depending on a social feeling that lonely individuals experience, they can experience a positive or negative relationship with others connected online. This finding signals that there is a need to examine ways to enhance a feeling of social presence during mediated experiences in order to help lonely individuals feel connected and receive benefits of going online. Further, the current study expands our understanding of social presence. The extant body of research has investigated the role of social presence from diverse perspectives. Specifically, research has revealed that social presence is an influential predictor that increases positive mediated experiences (e.g., Kim et al., 2016) and a crucial outcome variable of mediated experiences (e.g., Edwards, Edwards, Spence, & Westerman, 2016; Spence et al., 2014). Further, a good deal of research has examined social presence as a mediator that links media/technology use and user experiences (e.g., Kim & Timmerman, 2018; Lee, 2013; Song et al., 2018). However, relatively little research has investigated social presence as a moderator that can maximize the benefits of engaging in mediated experiences. In this regard, the current investigation contributes to expanding the role of social presence. 6.3. Limitations and directions for future research

6.2. Implications and contributions Collectively, findings of the current study suggest significant implications for and contributions to the understanding of celebrity’s social media research. Specifically, the current study sheds light on how celebrity followers’ loneliness is related to experiences with their favorite celebrity’s social media. Considering the popular use of social media among celebrities (Jin & Phua, 2014), there has been some scholarly attention to the understanding of celebrity’s social media. For example, research has examined how celebrities use their social media (e.g., Frederick et al., 2012; Kassing & Sanderson, 2010), how celebrity’s social media postings are related to celebrity followers’ perceptions about the celebrity (e.g., Kim & Song, 2016), and what motivates people to follow celebrities on social media (e.g., Hargittai & Litt, 2011; Sanderson, 2011). However, limited information is available on how celebrity followers’ social well-being, particularly loneliness, is related to the way celebrity followers consume and react to their favorite celebrity’s social media. In this regard, the current research

As with any study, this investigation has limitations that should be kept in mind when interpreting the pattern of results. First, future research should investigate a diverse set of motives for visiting celebrity’s social media. U&G theory explains that motives for using media could vary in a wide range, but this study focused on only two motives, information and social-interpersonal. These two motives are appropriate for the scope and the purpose of this investigation. However, it should be acknowledged that lonely celebrity followers may have other motives to visit their favorite celebrity’s social media, and those motives may be related to different patterns of experiences. Thus, future research should expand its scope by investigating more diverse motives in order to establish a more complete understanding of this unique phenomenon among lonely celebrity followers. Second, it is important to keep in mind that the degree of romantic attraction to the favorite celebrity may play a role. For example, romantic attraction to the favorite celebrity might influence their perceptions and responses toward

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the celebrity’s life stories shared on social media. Considering that celebrity worship syndrome is an important factor in the understanding of the celebrity–follower relationship (Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Houran, & Ashe, 2006), future research should further address this notion. Next, researchers are encouraged to address patterns of social media use among lonely individuals by comparing their experiences with the social media of others who they have personal and mutual relationships with (e.g., friends, family) in addition to experiences with social media of celebrities who they have one-way relationships with. Depending on the nature of the relationships and expectations that individuals have from the relationship, their experiences might be different. For example, considering the nature of a two-way relationship with friends, people may have a high expectation of social connection with their friends in a mediated environment. When this expectation is not being met, their social media experience might not be positive. However, with regard to the relationship with celebrities, given the nature of one-way relationships, where individuals expect that the celebrity may not respond to them, the level of expectation might be much lower compared to the one from two-way relationships. In this regard, it would be meaningful to investigate how these different natures of relationships and expectations would play a role in the understanding of lonely individuals’ social media use. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that the sample lacks in diversity as it consisted of largely homogeneous college students in the U.S. Considering rapid globalization and influences of celebrities, there is a need for understanding how different audiences respond to celebrities in other countries as well as in particular demographics (Brockington, 2015). Thus, future researchers should consider the importance of employing diverse samples. Lastly, future research may consider investigating diverse personality types as well as other aspects of social well-being of celebrity followers. For example, an extrovert (one of the big five personalities; John, Naumann, & Soto, 2008), may report different motives for visiting celebrity’s social media and may show different levels of enjoying the celebrity’s life stories. For a more complete and better understanding, future research should expand its scope by investigating a variety of individual characteristics. 6.4. Conclusion The current study examined how loneliness of celebrity followers is associated with their following behavior of the favorite celebrity on social media. The findings showed that loneliness is related to more use of their favorite celebrity’s social media, greater social-interpersonal motive for following the celebrity, and greater enjoyment of learning about personal life stories of the celebrity. Additionally, the study found that social presence plays a moderating role between loneliness and a parasocial relationship perception. Considering that research on the role of social/psychological states including loneliness on individuals’ use of social media is still in its nascent stages, it is important to understand how social well-being transforms the patterns and traits of CMC, especially in the context of

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