Social Media Pro Loneliness: Rhetorical Peculiarities

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Matthew Pittman and Brandon Reich (2016) in the article for the journal Computers in Human Behavior “Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words” examined the relationship between the use of social media and loneliness. Particularly, they divided social media into three groups such as image-based (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat), text-based (e.g. Twitter, Yik Yak), and mixed (e.g. Facebook), and investigated effects of each separately. They reviewed works of other scholars on the topic and emphasized that intimacy and immediacy a social medium can provide are the key factors in identifying its impacts on loneliness. 253 students participated in an online survey and analysis of its results showed that image-based social media positively affect users’ psychological well-being, while two other types have almost no effect. Despite a small number of participants in the survey and skip of considering time as an important factor, Pittman and Reich generally use ethos and logos effectively and the article can be considered credible.

Rhetorical Situation


The main audience of the article is Americans or British who use social media often and English-speaking people interested in researching social media’s effects on users. There are social media related jargons used in the text, such as followers, tweets, likes, sexting, and etc., with no explanations, which implies that the authors suppose readers are familiar with them. Pittman and Reich provided some statistics about loneliness and usage of social media among Americans and British people which implies that the intended audience is most probably people living in the U.S. or the U.K. The fact that both authors are Americans and that the article was published in the academic journal in English in comprehensible language supports the above-mentioned claim.


The article was written by Matthew Pittman and Brandon Reich, American scholars, in 2016. The lead author Matthew Pittman is an assistant professor at College of Communication and Creative Arts, Rowan University, USA. He obtained his Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Oregon, USA in 2017 (Matthew Pittman, n.d.). In the period between 2015-2018, he has worked on eight peer-reviewed journal articles and presented 12 papers that are mainly focused on the question related to social media and strategic communication. His Ph.D. dissertation's topic was particularly related to mobile social media, personality, and loneliness (Matthew Pittman, n.d.). Brandon Reich is a Ph.D. student in Marketing at the University of Oregon, USA (The Conversation, 2018). His researches mostly focus on consumer well-being and behavior, and anti-consumption (ScienceDirect, 2016). In the same period of time, he has written 10 research papers and articles, of which “Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words” is the most cited one (Google Scholar, 2019). Thus, it can be said that both authors have experience in the research field, and since Pittman is focused on social media, Reich – on consumer behavior, together they consider the effects of social media on its “consumer's' well-being.


The article is published in the academic peer-reviewed journal called Computers in Human Behavior established by Elsevier which mostly focuses on human-computer interaction and the effects of usage of computers on human behavior (Elsevier, n.d.). This certainly gives the article ethos and makes it more convincing. The journal article is, probably, the most convenient genre for this work, since it shows the correlation between usage of social media and individuals' loneliness, with no call to action as might be expected, and makes a contribution to the topic by examining it from a new perspective. In addition, there are tables, graphs, and appendices with the results of the experiment which are more pertinent for a journal article.

Purpose and Exigence

In 2015 the Pew Research Center found that during their study about 90% of young adults who own mobile phones used social media at least once (Smith, 2015 as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016). In addition, Olds and Schwartz (as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016) and Griffin (as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016) show that people in America and the U.K. are lonelier than ever before, in spite of accessibility of social media. Works of different scholars from different time emphasize negative effects of loneliness on children’s (Asher and Paquette, 2003; Boivin, Hymel, & Bukowski, 1995 as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016), adolescents’ (Jones, Schinka, Dulmen, Bossarte, & Swahn, 2011; Mahon, Yarcheski, & Yarcheski, 1993 as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016), and adults’ (Cacioppo, Hughes, Waite, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2006; Patterson & Veenstra, 2010 as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016) well-being. Thus, Pittman and Reich “aimed to investigate the link between different social media platforms and loneliness” (2016, p. 158) by dividing social media into three groups (image-based, text-based, mixed) and examining each one’s effects on users’ psychological well-being.

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Rhetorical Appeals


Both the authors, message, and the text have ethos. As described above, the authors have experience in researching social media and human behavior, also the article was published by well-known academic publisher Elsevier in the peer-reviewed journal Computer in Human Behavior that, definitely, make the article more credible. Furthermore, most of the claims are cited using up-to-date sources. The graphs and figures produced by software called VOSviewer and tables with the results provide additional ethos to the text. However, they cited a work by Ruggiero published in 2000 to show the difference between the effects of social media of 20th and 21st centuries on users, whereas most of the currently popular social media were released after 2004 – birth year of Facebook (Pittman and Reich, 2016, p. 156). A small number of participants (253) also makes the outcomes of the experiment less credible and less applicable to all young adults.


Pathos is not used in this text much, because as it was mentioned above the main aim of the article is not call people to use social media more often or rare, in one way or another, but to examine the effects of its usage on loneliness, happiness, and satisfaction with life. The only example that might have pathos is the suggestion of scholars that loneliness might increase death risk by 26% (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, Baker, Harris, & Stephenson, 2015 as cited in Pittman and Reich, 2016) which is used to emphasize the seriousness of the problem of loneliness. However, mostly, the authors focused more on ethos and logos, since they make a text more credible and convincing.


The authors often appeal to logic throughout the text. They divided social media into three groups assuming that their effects on loneliness would be different. Also, they suggested that intimacy and immediacy provided by certain medium are the key factors on its effects on loneliness (Pittman and Reich, 2016, p. 157). Assuming that images provide more intimacy and facilitate social presence, because people are likely to believe an image rather than a text and that they associate images with a real-world, Pittman and Reich derived three hypotheses: image-based social media usage will result in a decrease in loneliness and increase in happiness as well as in satisfaction with life (SWL). The main logos is the experiment they conducted with 253 participants who took a mixed-method survey. Then they analyzed the results using multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) and software called VOSviewer which visualizes co-occurrences of all terms. Their conclusions are made based on the results which are represented in graphs, tables, and figures.

Ideas Analysis

The main argument of the article is that image-based social media attenuate loneliness, whereas text-based and mixed social media has almost no effect. The experiment conducted to examine the relationship between usage of three types of social media and loneliness, SWL, and happiness revealed that image-based social media significantly decrease loneliness and increase SWL and happiness, because they provide both intimacy and immediacy, whereas text-based social media feature only the latter, thus causes almost no change in individuals psychological well-being. Despite the clear results of the experiment, still, there are certain limitations to it. A small number of participants from a quite similar society – students studying journalism and business at the University of Oregon – makes the conclusions less plausible and applicable to all young adults. Moreover, the time each student spent on using social media is not considered in the experiment. Thus, to make the argument more effective number of participants could be increased and usage time could be considered as one of the key factors.


The article, written by experienced scholars in the field, is intended for Americans and/or British who usually use social media as well as people who are interested in social media’s impact on individuals. Pittman and Reich identifying the aims and methods of their work have chosen an appropriate genre for their work. Even though, mostly the text has ethos, a small number of participants can be considered the main drawback of it. Pathos is not used much, as it is not necessary. Mostly, the text appeals to logic as it analyses survey results using different approaches and presents them in graphs, tables, figures. However, the fact that they did not consider time, participants spend using social media, as a significant factor makes their idea less effective. Overall, in spite of certain drawbacks and fallacies, Pittman and Reich’s article is credible because of the generally effective use of ethos and logos.


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Social Media Pro Loneliness: Rhetorical Peculiarities. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
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