All the lonely people: Considering the attributes of audiences who consume and share untruthful content

Michal Chmiel, Gareth Thompson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has exacerbated the prevalence of fake news and its negative impact on the society. With the introduction of various restrictive health-related protective measures, communication professionals indirectly contributed to an increase of loneliness. As audiences became more psychologically vulnerable, fake news about COVID-19 have led to an increase in risk-taking behaviours and further polarized already divided societies. To better understand psychological ascendants of sharing untruthful content we explored links between fake news, narcissism, and political orientation to suggest a causal model of involving a mediated mechanism whereby loneliness indirectly influences intentions to share fake news. We recruited 169 participants through Prolific platform exposed them to a fake news post. Although the model of political affiliation, loneliness and narcissism significantly explained sharing fake news, political attitudes alone did not contribute to that. Loneliness was a strong predictor of sharing untruthful content and narcissism was a mediator of this relationship but was negatively related to loneliness. Our interpretation of the findings is intended to help CSR communicators better understand the characteristics of the audiences with which they seek to communicate by highlighting the importance of loneliness and narcissism as strong predictors of sharing fake information online. We propose extending the concept of CSR to capture the need of organizations to take responsibility for epistemic clutter they may directly, but also indirectly contribute – by producing divisive communication or limiting audiences’ ability to express their opinions or blocking unwanted social media users completely. We also discuss potential causes of political orientation not predicting the intentions to spread fake content and suggest that in the UK sample, right-wing voters’ perception of political control may be high due to the structure of the political scene in the country.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication29th BledCom international conference
Place of PublicationSlovenia
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2022


  • loneliness
  • Narcissism
  • Fake news

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