Feeling Lonely? Study Says Social Media Might Make It Worse

Feeling Lonely? Study Says Social Media Might Make It Worse

Kenya Foy
Mar 10, 2017
(Image credit: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock)

If you use social media to chase away the lonelies, there's a new study that suggests you're doing it all wrong.

We hear a ton about the benefits of interacting with others online, from those who show us how social media can actually improve mental health to instances in which people find love on dating apps like Tinder. But the American Journal of Preventive Medicine recently published a study led by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists that explores the connection between social media usage and feelings of isolation, and the findings reveal a direct relationship between the two. In short, the more time you spend scrolling your feeds, the lonelier you may be likely to feel.

With increased interaction on a plethora of apps that allow for endless virtual connectivity, loneliness seems like the last obstacle frequent social media users would face, but according to the study's lead author Brian Primack, it has the exact opposite effect.

"This is an important issue to study because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults." Primack continued, "We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together. While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for."

In 2014, Primack and a team of scientists examined the social media habits of 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 to 32 via a questionnaire that asked about the time and frequency they spent on the 11 most popular social media platforms. Ultimately, they determined that young adults who are constantly logging into social media reported more feelings of isolation than those with less social media usage: "frequent users may substitute SMU [social media use] for face-to-face social interactions. Similarly, frequent exposure to highly distilled, unrealistic portrayals on social media may give people the impression that others are living happier, more connected lives, and this may make users feel more socially isolated in comparison."

While we have a feeling this is unlikely to slow down the more than 2 billion people who engage in social media worldwide, it's definitely worth reevaluating whether constant online engagement is working for or against us.

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