Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Stephen Yoshimura

Commitee Members

Heather Voorhees, Jackson Bunch


Computer-Mediated Communication, Interpersonal Relationships, The Need-to-Belong Hypothesis, Social Presence Theory, Media Richness Theory, Loneliness


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Other Communication


Loneliness is a universal part of being human and is detrimental to well-being. The need-to-belong hypothesis claims that individuals frequently having positive interactions with people close to them mitigates their loneliness. Media richness theory adds that rich media channels allow individuals to perceive higher levels of social presence and maintain those vital, close relationships. Understanding how a given media channel impacts online interactions and, in turn, the interactants is vital. This study used a pretest-posttest equivalent groups experimental design to examine if individuals who interacted with a close relationship partner over a rich media channel would have a decrease in their perceived loneliness levels or an increase in their perceived well-being and sense of belonging (pre-interaction to post-interaction) compared to those who communicated via less rich media channels. The results indicated that the richness of a given channel increased with the number of verbal and nonverbal cues the media channel could communicate; video chat had the highest richness, followed by phone calls and text messages. Although texting had a significantly lower level of social presence, participants did not indicate a difference in social presence felt between video chat and phone calls. Neither media richness nor social presence produced an effect on loneliness, well-being, or belongingness. Overall, the findings suggest that, for a healthy population, no channel of communication examined here is better or worse in terms of its effects on short-term loneliness, sense of belonging, and subjective well-being.



© Copyright 2022 Ashley M. Arsenault