Is this making you feel lonely?

Is this making you feel lonely?

Social media has long been praised for bringing people together and maintaining relationships that may not otherwise survive due to time and distance. But research found these social networks may actually make you feel alone.

The research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined the effects of social media on feeling socially isolated. According to members of the research team, this study was important because “mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults.”

The social media use of nearly 2,000 individuals between the ages of 19 and 32 was examined on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and more.

Researchers found that people who used social media for more than two hours a day were twice as likely to feel socially isolated, as compared to those who used the sites about half an hour a day. Those who visited social media sites more than 50 times a week had a threefold increase in feeling socially isolated compared to people who visited the sites less than 10 times per week.

Potential reasons behind the linkage of social media use and feelings of isolation, as determined by the researchers, are as follows:

  • The time spent on social media could be spent on human interaction.
  • People may feel left out when they see others enjoying an event they were not a part of on social media, or they may simply feel jealousy after looking at a person’s social media page.

But, the association is very much like that of the chicken or the egg, as it is unclear if the social media use or feelings of social isolation came first. That is, people who feel socially isolated may turn to social media in an effort to eliminate the loneliness.

“This study highlights that for some individuals, simply being connected through social media isn’t a substitute for more genuine relationships that allow for deeper dialogue and the ability to spend quality time together,” says Dr. David Kemp, a psychiatrist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., and medical director of the behavioral health service line for Advocate Health Care.

“Social media has the power to skew our perceptions of others and ourselves. The number of Facebook friends or time online isn’t a metric for life happiness,” he says. “Rather, having a few close relationships in which we prioritize our emotional investment can be more satisfying and serve as an antidote for loneliness and isolation.”

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.