Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Karen Kochel


During the COVID-19 pandemic health protocols limited in-person interactions, interrupting the undergraduate experience and prompting students to find virtual ways to connect with their peers. A key goal of this study was to assess whether college students’ social media use was a viable replacement for in-person interactions during the pandemic, reducing risk for psychological difficulties that ordinarily accompany social isolation. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate loneliness as a potential mediator underlying the longitudinal relationship between social media use and depression. Self-report data were collected in November 2020 (T1), February 2021 (T2), and May 2021 (T3). The sample consisted of 517 undergraduate students recruited from two liberal arts institutions in the Southeast U.S. Findings from a series of regression analyses showed that T1 reliance on social media was associated with T3 depression; moreover, I obtained evidence suggesting that T2 loneliness was a mediator of this association. In other words, students who reported a higher reliance on social media at T1 also reported greater levels of loneliness at T2 which predicted elevated levels of depression at T3. Findings suggest that social media may not be a viable replacement for face-to-face interactions, perhaps because people require in-person connections to satiate their basic need to belong. Results also suggest that bolstering personal connections may be important for reducing risk for depression on college campuses.