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The role of the internet in social isolation of the university students.


Because of growing use of information technology and its consequences, continuous change an innovation has turned into an indisputable aspect of social life; one of the manifestations of these innovations is the advent and spread of communicative and information technologies. The advent of a new phenomenon called the 'internet' has expedited the circulation of information all over the world. Until mid-90's most of the social networks were transferred to the internet, so computers were no longer personal. The development of new forms of communication in large computer networks such as the internet, has led to the creation of new social spaces that are unlimited and affect social relationships. Therefore, new information technologies have connected the distant parts of the world in world networks, and computer connections have created broad virtual communities [4]. The internet has changed our lives and the ways of communication with each other. The spread of the internet all over the world has posed important questions for sociologists. The internet is changing the form of our everyday lives. Disappearance of universal and local. borders has resulted in the appearance of new ways of communication and interaction, and it has facilitated doing duties in networks. Despite having educational advantages, the provision of communicative services, and so on, the computer and the internet bear some negative aspects too [10]. Uncontrolled use of the computers, threatens the physical, social and psychological growth of the adolescents and the youth [9]. Therefore, using the internet and membership in social networks causes social and cultural damage to the society; this disrupts the interactions and communications among the people in a society, so studying the basic aspects of the social damage, especially social isolation among the internet users can help us gain a correct and right understanding of the growth and the use of information and communication technologies. Besides the internet, the social networks are also considered as influential factors in social life. The use of the internet increased in the first decade of the 21'st century; studies show that the number of internet users increased at the rate of 10 percent every month [7]. According to [16], at the beginning of the third millennium and with the appearance of the new paradigm based on communicative and information technologies, all countries in the world will directly or indirectly be posed to structural changes. This type of technology, by itself, is not considered to be an important determining factor in social institutions and processes. On the contrary, in the complex matrix of mutual actions between the social structures and the actors, it plays an intermediary role, and because of this it is in the center of human actions [5]. Therefore, the study of the effects and consequences of the use of communication and information technologies, including the internet, in different domains is highly important. The main consumers of this type of technology are scholars, generally, and the students, particularly. The internet takes up a main portion of educational, occupational and leisure-time activities of the university students. Therefore, there is the likelihood that using the internet may affect the type of actions, priorities and their orientation. However, the question concerns the effect the internet will have on the social network. Undoubtedly, social isolation deprives the people of formal and informal participation in the society, reduces social interaction and the feeling of social belongingness [3,20]. prevents permanent and stable exchange of the thoughts and feelings between the whole and the parts and vice versa [9]. weakens or cuts discourse relationships [2], prevents the sense of collaboration in warm, close and human relationships [5,6,20]. and finally facilitates deep long lasting relationships [9,7,18]. The above mentioned results can cause different consequences like the feeling of loneliness, the feeling of incapability and social despair. Based on the discussion above, the present study aims to answer the question that: Does using the internet cause social isolation among the university students? Welman, in a paper entitled 'the social question' offers a new typology for settling the above-mentioned differences of ideas. He believes that different ideas can be categorized under three topics, namely 'the lost society', 'the maintained society' and 'the released society':

A) The lost society: The appearance of new phenomena like urbanization and industrialization posed the mentioned bonds to serious threats and weakened the existing strong bonds. The mentioned changes turned the original relationships in the cities into impersonal and passing ones. In cities, individuals have membership in several social networks instead of forming interrelated societies. The social networks that have weak bonds with each other do not get the needed social support [21]. This view has been able to demonstrate the potential relationship between dividing administrative situational work and the original structure of the bonds. However, the presupposition of the view that strong bonds naturally occur in original group solidarities prevents pondering over the question of whether the original bonds have structurally changed in the new administrative system or not [21]. The maintained society: In contrast to the first group, another group of scholars have attempted to show that the original bonds still exist in the age of industrialization and urbanization [21]. Society is still alive, and different types of relationships among the individuals are observable.

This second group believes that the view of the first group is pessimistic and has no empirical basis.

C) The released society: Unlike the first two views, the third view believes that the serious effects of industrialization and urbanization are very important. One can hardly disregard the effects of this broad process on social relationships and bonds. On the other hand, the destruction of society in the modern communities is an issue verified by no experimental evidence. In fact, swift transportation vehicles and communication tools like telephone have reduced the people's belongingness to geographical features and situations. In other words, the role of time and place in human relationships has decreased, but this does not mean that society has been eliminated; on the contrary, society has reproduced itself in new forms through the social networks. The effects and the consequences of using the internet has been noted by some groups of scholars in the following way:

Group One: The first group whose views is gradually turning into a dominant ideology, refer to a the creation of 'a new world' that is in sharp contrast to the 'old world'. In their view, the virtual world or the world of networks will gradually replace the cyber space [1]. They believe that the internet gradually helps introduce positive changes. The internet renews social life through creating a meeting space for the people with the same interests and overcoming the limitations of time and place. In this view not only does the internet create low cost communication among the friends and relatives, but it also increases their face to face and telephone communications by making them aware of each other's needs [21]. Among the scholars in this group, people from McLohani tradition can be found who have turned into the fans of information society and the internet. Their view is associated with religious orientations, and internet fundamentalists are included under this category. "Daniel Bell" is among the forerunners of this group of scholars. This view was based on the fact that there has been a change from production to services, and the basis of this change is production [3]. The second group believes that using the internet leads to social isolation. In their view, using the internet prevents people from attending to the real society because their network interactions are much more than their direct communications. Internet communications gradually lead to deep friendship and the provision of abstract resources (like emotional support) as well as real financial support. Habermas is among the scholars in this group [3]. The third group believes in the complementary role of the internet. They believe that determining whether the internet increases or decreases social isolation may happen in people's private life frameworks. The internet becomes integrated into in people's everyday career and life, and gradually living in a network is regarded like the activities out of the network. This technology gradually maintains and spreads the transfer of interpersonal relationships in house-to- house, location-to-location and person-to-person manner. Scholars like Leen and Casseles are included in this group. The view of exploitation and use: One of the consequences of the advent of modern communication technologies is the fact that we probably need to develop theories that put less emphasis on the effects of mass media, and they rather emphasize the ways the viewer uses mass media. This change might give greater importance to the strategy of use and exploitation in studying mass communication [11]. The main assumption of the mentioned strategy is the fact that the addressees somehow actively look for the content that brings about greater satisfaction. The rate of exploitation (satisfaction) depends on the people's needs and interests. The more people believe that a particular type of media content fulfills their needs, there is greater probability that they will choose the mentioned type of contents [12].

The spiral view of silence: One of the theories that envigors the mass media more than the other views is the spiral view of silence proposed by Elizabeth [18]. Nuel Newman reasons that the mass media definitely exert a strong influence on public opinion, but due to the lack of studies in the past, they have either been disregarded or have remained unexplored. Nuel Newman reasons that the three features of the mass media, namely, density, -prevalence and harmony integrate to pose strong influence on public opinion. Harmony refers to the common picture of an event or a topic that can be expanded, and it is usually common for different newspapers, magazines, TV channels and the other media. Harmony helps overcome selective encounters so that the individuals cannot opt for another message; this verifies the supposition that most of the people look at the issues the way the mass media present them. The other factor that comes into play is the 'spiral of silence'.

Concerning a particular controversial issue, the people make different guesses about the distribution of public opinion. They attempt to determine whether they are in the majority group or not and whether the changes in public views are for or against their own views. If they feel that they are in the minority group, they tend to be silent on the issue, and if they feel that change in public opinion is against their views, they prefer to be silent. The more they are silent, the more the other people feel that no particular view has been presented, and this causes greater silence [16].

Review of the Literature: Pur Shariar (2007) compared depression, social isolation and family relationships of female internet users of Tehran high schools [18]. To collect the data, he used family relationships questionnaire, CDI depression test and UCLA scale of social isolation. The study was carried out in two stages, and in the first stage following random cluster sampling of 227 female high school students (including 115 nonusers and 112 users of the internet), it became clear that there is no significant difference between the internet users and non-users in three variables of depression, social isolation and family relationships. In the second stage, based on the available results out of the total number of the internet users (10 hours or more in average), 25 students were randomly selected and were compared with 25 non-users in terms of the three abovementioned variables. The "t" values indicate the significant difference between the two groups on the mentioned three variables. Nadi and Sajjadian (2006) conducted a study entitled "The relationship between depression and social isolation of adolescent and young internet users with the typical length of hours they used the internet; their purpose was determining the social relationship between depression and the social isolation of the internet users and the number of hours they worked [9]. This study was a descriptive correlational study in which 118 internet centre customers of the licensed internet center owners of Isfahan were used. To measure depression and social isolation, a depression test and a researcher-made test of social isolation were used. The results indicated that there is a relationship between depression, social isolation and the typical number of hours the adolescent and young internet users used the internet. The results of the study indicated overuse of the internet can be dangerous for the health and psychological and social growth of the adolescents and the youth.

Crout et al found that using the internet has a direct relationship with the feeling of loneliness. Tirdel (2001) believes that, as for the other technologies that cause laziness and physical inactivity, the internet also causes social inactivity and reduces the willingness for establishing relationship with the others leading to social isolation [4]. Anderson et al (1997) believes that an individual uses the internet to escape from the real problems, or release from laziness and exhaustion, release from the feeling of inability, sin, loneliness, nervousness or depression [1]. In a study conducted by Norman Nay (2000), the professor at Stanford University, it was found that the greater the time spent on the internet, the less time the individuals spend with their friends and relatives; they also do less shopping and spent less time on TV. The results of a study on 4113 adults in America indicated that although most of these internet users can communicate with their friends and relatives via the internet, they can never have coffee with them or hug them on the internet. Like television in the last decades, the internet has turned into a tool to minimize most of constructive relationships. Lenhart, Rayin and Oliver (2001) believe that the effects of the use of the internet and computer include devoting less time to studying, reduction of the social relationships, and affecting the quality and the quantity of relationship with the parents. Most of the respondents believe that a major factor in the feeling of loneliness and isolation is the isolation resulting from the internet and lack of face-to-face communication. Most of the internet users confirm that while using the internet, time passes more rapidly, and they faced the problem of too early communication and lack of commitments in internet relationships [7]. Moreover, the people addicted to internet chatting, usually involve themselves too early, and there is a high probability for them to be engaged in immoral issues. Fallahi (2011) conducted a study and examined the effect of information and communications technology (ICT) on the relationship between the internet users and social isolation [20]. The study revealed that the people who use the internet more often, are addicted to the internet and face social isolation. To study ICT and social behavior, a random sample of 500 students at Shiraz University were selected, and UCLA scale along with Young (1998) scale were used to collect the data for the study. The results showed that the students are addicted to the internet, and the addicted groups feel more depression in comparison with the other groups [8]. Octas et al (2013) have studied the use of the internet, loneliness and the social effectiveness of the students in Turkish universities. A sample of 507 students used Young's internet scale that matched the scale of Byractor (2001) to determine the rate of the use of the internet by the students; to determine the range of loneliness, UCLA scale was used. To determine the amount of effectiveness, Smith Bat range of conception scale was matched against the Turkish Palancy scale. The results indicated that there is a significant relationship between the range of loneliness and the use of the internet, but no significant relationship was observed with the scores of effectiveness. It was also observed that the students with longer hours of the use of the internet have higher levels of loneliness in comparison to the average or low hours of the use of the internet. Tora et al. (2012) posed the following question: Cad using the internet serve as an effective way for encountering or getting along with the loneliness? In screening study based on the relational model, a total of 569 adults were selected, and the results indicated that higher range of loneliness is observed in the people living alone rather than the people using the internet. and generally it can be said that the use of the internet has an important place among the methods already used for overcoming loneliness among the adolescents and the adults [9, 10,5].


Research Hypotheses: Using the internet causes social isolation among the students. There is a significant difference between the rate of social isolation among male and female internet users. There is a relationship between the rate of the use of the internet and the range of feeling incapable and disappointed. There is a relationship between the use of the internet by the internet users and the rate of feeling lonely.

Method: Due to the large number of research population and the selected sample, the present study used survey method. Having collected the data through a questionnaire and interview, the researcher used Pearson Correlation, regression and path analysis tests of the SPSS software to analyze the data. The population of the study included a total of 24829 students at Islamic Azad University, Tabriz Branch. Out of the total population, 387 students were selected. Random proportional stratified sampling was used to select the subjects, and they were selected proportionate to the number of students in each faculty. In each faculty also random sampling was used.

Table 1: The reliability values of the variables

Social      Social        Feeling   The rate of    Variable
Isolation   inability     Lonely    the use of
            and despair             the internet

%76         %73           %87       %75            Alpha

Table 2: Dispersion of the respondents among the genders

Percentage    Frequency   Gender

%51.6         195         Female
%48.4         183         Male
%100          378         Total

Table two shows the dispersion of the subjects based on the genders. The results show that among the respondents in the study 51.6 percent were women and 48.4 percent were men.

Table 3 shows the dispersion of the respondents in terms of the way they connect to the internet. Out of the total number of the respondents, 83.9 percent connect with their personal computer, and the least type of connection is through friend's home; this has amounted to 2.1 percent.

Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics about the rate of the use of the internet and social isolation. The mean is 2.88 and the median is 2.88. Moreover the range of the changes is 0.634. Moreover, the mean for social isolation is 3.44 and the median is 3.47. Moreover, the range of the changes is 0.459.
Social Isolation   Using the

0/112              1           Correlation for using the internet
0/029                          Significance level
378                378         Frequency

1                  0/112       Correlation for Social Isolation
                   0/029       Significance Level
378                378         Frequency

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Testing the Hypotheses: The first hypothesis: Using the internet causes social isolation among the students.

In regression tests, first the Pearson coefficient should be significant to continue the test. Pearson coefficient correlation coefficient between the two variables is 0.112, and at a probability level of 95 percent, the significance level is 0.02 indicating a relationship between the two variables.

According to the results of ANOVA test or f-test, with f=4.779 and df=1 at a probability level of 95 percent, the significance level is 0.02. In other words, the null hypothesis (H0) is rejected, but H1 (the research hypothesis) is confirmed, and the independent variable is capable of predicting the dependent variable.

The second hypothesis: There is a significant difference between male and female internet users in terms of social isolation.

The results of independent t or independent groups are as follows: in the output of table 14, we can see the test of homogeneity of variance, and then interpret the T-test results.

Based on the results of the independent T-test, first we examine the results of Leven test or the test for the homogeneity of variance. Since the significance level is 0.308, the variance is supposed to be homogenous. Therefore, in interpreting the results of independent T-test, we should first interpret t in a way that the variances are equal. The results indicate that with t=1.828, at df=376 and probability level of 95 percent, the significance level is 0.068. It means that the data confirmed the null hypothesis (H0), but it rejected H1 (the research hypothesis). In other words, social isolation is not significantly different between the male and female internet users.

The third hypothesis: There is a relationship between using the internet by the users and the rate of feeling incapability and despair.

According to the results in table 11, Pearson Correlation coefficient between the two variables is 0.125, and significance level of 0.041 shows the relationship between the two variables.

Hypothesis 4: There is a relationship between the use of internet by the users and the rate of feeling lonely.

According to the results in table 12, Pearson correlation coefficient between the two variables is 0.146, and the significance level of 0.005 shows an average and direct relationship between the two variables. Figure (1): the shape of path analysis model


In path analysis the rate of the effect of independent variables on the dependent variable has been studied, and based on the rate of change in the variables, a modand network variability (0.19) as well as internet skill have an indirect effect on soel is drawn using multiple regression analysis. Therefore, path analysis model shows that network variability (0.22) has a direct effect on social isolation. Moreover, network size cial isolation through network size and variety (0.25). Also the variable of the spent time on the internet indirectly affects social isolation through internet skill (051) and network size (012)

Discussion And Conclusion:

The internet and membership in social networks has gained a prominent place in the societies to the extent that it can affect the social processes and events and bring about fundamental changes. The use of the internet among the subjects under study showed that the internet affects their interactions and communications. Therefore, it can be claimed that with the increasing rate of the use of the internet, there is greater probability of social isolation. The results of the study indicate that there is a relationship between the use of the internet and social networks and social isolation. Moreover, the internet can play a complementary role in social relationships. Face-to-face or telephone communications happen at certain times, and if they break the agreed-upon limits, they are considered as breaking the people's individual lives [19]. However, internet communications can fill special periods of time without disturbing the others. For the mentioned reasons, social use of the internet reduces social isolation or increases social communications. The results show that the internet affects the social isolation of the individuals, meaning that it increases social isolation. The result of the other studies on using the internet is related to the degree of social isolation in the individuals [5]. In fact the more the use of internet, social isolation, feeling of despair, incapability and loneliness increase, the better their interactions and communications become. According to the results from the present study, the following suggestions are given: It seems that professors reduce the social isolation among the university students by creating opportunities for the students to share and present their ideas, involving the students in university affairs by the university officials and increasing their participation in the social affairs. It also seems that using the internet is a growing trend, especially among the university students. Therefore, concerning the quantitative programs at macro level, focusing on solving the university students' problems and the development of attractive and joyful programs can be important strategies for reducing and controlling social isolation. Moreover, most of the university students resort to the virtual world to get rid of their family problems, unemployment, high marriage age [9,10], economic problems, high educational costs, shortage of enough space for free time activities, unreasonable rules and standards of the real world and closed social atmosphere. Furthermore, the attempt to strengthen and improve the family ties and changing the social and free time structures is effective in reducing the use of the internet. At an individual level, it seems that creating an appropriate timetable for using the internet is effective. Furthermore, the other ways to reduce the time on the internet include maintaining the chain of family ties, friends, social activities and group heads for enjoying and continuing their lives. Discussing the issues and the problems of the internet shows the fact that appropriate culture should be created, and education should be provided at the level of the family and society in order to use the internet appropriately [20,17,3].


Article history:


Received in revised form


Available online


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(1) Iraj Mahmoudi, (2) Ali Amini, (3) Allahverdi Hosseinzadeh

(1,3) Department of Education, College of Education, Miandoab Branch, Islamic Azad University, Miandoab, Iran.

(2) Ph.D. in Educational Administration, Ilam Branch, Payam Noor University, Ilam, Iran. author, University, Country.

Corresponding Author: Iraj Mahmoudi, Department of Education, College of Education, Miandoab Branch, Islamic Azad University, Miandoab, Iran.
Table 3: The method of using the internet

Percentage    Frequency   How to use the internet

%83.9         317         Personal Computer
%6.9          26          Internet Services Center
%5.3          20          University Site
%1.9          7           Friends' Home
%2.1          8           Others
%100          378         Total

Table 4: descriptive statistics for the rate
of the use of the internet

[TEXT NOT      Skewedness   range       Maximum

-0.558         -0.014       3.11        4.33
0.032          -0.402       2.82        4.76

[TEXT NOT      Minimum      Standard    Variance
REPRODUCIBLE                Deviation

-0.558         1.22         0.634       0.403
0.032          1.94         0.459       0.211

[TEXT NOT      Median       Mean        Variable

-0.558         2.88         2.92        The Internet
0.032          3.47         3.44        Social

Table 5: The Prediction Model

Standard Error   Balanced R   [R.sup.2]   R       Model

0.45727          0.010        0.013       0.112   1

a. Predictors: (Constant), Using the internet

Significance   F       The        Degrees of   Total     Model
Level                  mean of    Freedom Df   Squares

re0.029        4.779   0.999      1            0.999     Regression
                       0.209      376          78.620    Residual
                                  377          79.620    Total

a. Predictors: (Constant),Using the internet

b. Dependent Variable: Social isolation

Table 8: Regress

Significance   T        Standardized
Level                   coefficients


0.000          28.921
0.029          2.186    0.112

Significance   Not Standardized              Model 1
Level          coefficients

               [TEXT NOT      [TEXT NOT
               IN ASCII]      IN ASCII]

0.000          0.111          3.206          Constant value
0.029          0.037          0.081          Using the internet

Table 9: T-test

            Gender   Frequency   Mean     Standard    Error of
                                          Deviation   Standard

Social      male     183         3.3986   0.44824     0.03313
Isolation   female   195         3.4848   0.46723     0.03346

T-test for the homogeneity of the means

Probability Value of 95 %

Maximum   Minimum    Standard   Differences
                     Error      in Mean

0.17889   -0.00653   0.04715    0.08618
0.7877    0.00641-   0.04709    0.08618

Probability Value of 95 %

Maximum   Minimum    Significance   Degrees      t value
                     Level sig      of Freedom

0.17889   -0.00653   0.068          376          1.828
0.17877   0.00641-   0.068          375.815      1.830

                     Test for the
Probability Value    homogeneity of
of 95 %              the variance

Maximum   Minimum    sig      F        Variable

0.17889   -0.00653   0.580    0.308    Social isolation
0.17877   0.00641-                     Homogeneous
                                       Not homogenous

Table 11: Pearson Corrlation Coeficientr

Feeling despair   Using the
and incapable     internet

0.125             1           Using the internet Coefficient
0.041                         Significance Level
378               378         Frequency

1                 0.125       Feeling despair and incapable
                  0.041       Significance Level
378               378         Frequency

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Table 12: Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Feeling of    Using the
Loneliness    internet

0.146         1           Using the internet Correlation
0.005                     Significance Level
378           378         Frequency

1             0.146       Feeling Lonely Correlation
              0.005       Significance Level
378           378         Frequency

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
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Author:Mahmoudi, Iraj; Amini, Ali; Hosseinzadeh, Allahverdi
Publication:Advances in Environmental Biology
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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