Many Ways to Be Lonely: Fine-Grained Characterization of Loneliness and Its Potential Changes in COVID-19


  • Yueyi Jiang University of California San Diego
  • Yunfan Jiang Stanford University
  • Liu Leqi Carnegie Mellon University
  • Piotr Winkielman University of California San Diego



Measuring predictability of real world phenomena based on social media, e.g., spanning politics, finance, and health, Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media, Subjectivity in textual data; sentiment analysis; polarity/opinion identification and extraction, linguistic analyses of social media behavior, Trend identification and tracking; time series forecasting


Loneliness has been associated with negative outcomes for physical and mental health. Understanding how people express and cope with various forms of loneliness is critical for early screening and targeted interventions to reduce loneliness, particularly among vulnerable groups such as young adults. To examine how different forms of loneliness and coping strategies manifest in loneliness self-disclosure, we built a dataset, FIG-Loneliness (FIne-Grained Loneliness) by using Reddit posts in two young adult-focused forums and two loneliness related forums consisting of a diverse age group. We provided annotations by trained human annotators for binary and fine-grained loneliness classifications of the posts. Trained on FIG-Loneliness, two BERT-based models were used to understand loneliness forms and authors’ coping strategies in these forums. Our binary loneliness classification achieved an accuracy above 97%, and fine-grained loneliness category classification reached an average accuracy of 77% across all labeled categories. With FIG-Loneliness and model predictions, we found that loneliness expressions in the young adult related forums were distinct from other forums. Those in young adult-focused forums were more likely to express concerns pertaining to peer relationship, and were potentially more sensitive to geographical isolation impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Also, we showed that different forms of loneliness have differential use in coping strategies.




How to Cite

Jiang, Y., Jiang, Y., Leqi, L., & Winkielman, P. (2022). Many Ways to Be Lonely: Fine-Grained Characterization of Loneliness and Its Potential Changes in COVID-19. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 405-416.