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Social media makes you really lonely, say US psychologists

Explains a lot!!

Honestly, it feels like a new study slamming our social media use comes out every week. That’s what it’s starting to feel like to me. Despite its undeniable significance in all of our lives, researchers have proven countless times that it raises the risk of depression, makes us “morally shallow”, and increases feelings of worthlessness and misery. Now, on top of all that, it turns out that sharing your life online could actually be making you feel more lonely.

According to a new psychological study from the University of Pittsburgh, people who regularly use the 11 most popular social media sites – including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Reddit – are more likely to experience feelings of social isolation. 

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at the habits of 1787 adults aged between 19 to 32. It found that those who typically spend more than two hours a day on social media sites are twice as likely to harbour feelings of loneliness and isolation. The link was found even after other social and demographic factors were taken into account. 

“Our biology has evolved over time to need true social interaction – things like eye contact, touch, and verbal discussion” – Professor Brian Primack

Professor Brian Primack, the lead scientist behind the study, claimed that mental health problems were at “epidemic levels” among young adults, with this study potentially offering some insight as to why. “As humans, we are very social creatures,” he told Dazed. “Our biology has evolved over time to need true social interaction – things like eye contact, touch, and verbal discussion. Some social media interactions may help serve as true replacements for these social needs. However, if other social media interactions only serve to make people feel more socially isolated, this could certainly negatively influence mental health.”

The one thing that wasn’t clear from the study, however, was what came first – the social media use or the perceived social isolation. Could it just be that lonely people are more likely to use social media? Or is social media actually the cause of these feelings? According to Primack, the results could go either way.

“Maybe people who feel more socially isolated use a lot of social media to try to increase their social circles,” he continued. “However, if this is true, the results of this study suggest that this ‘self-medication’ doesn’t seem to be working so well. On the other hand, it may be that people who use a lot of social media don’t have as much time for more fulfilling direct social experiences. It may also be that people who use social media a lot tend to feel like everyone else is strongly connected to each other. Then, in comparison, they might feel that they themselves are more socially isolated. It’s also potentially important to note that both directions may be at work.”

Despite these damning results, Primack stressed that he didn’t feel like people should avoid social media – calling it an “extremely important part of modern-day society”. He added: “Hopefully the knowledge that there can be emotional risks associated with its use may help individuals to make better choices about the extent to which they use social media and the way in which they use it.”