Thursday Thought: Is Social Media Making Us Lonely?

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We have heard many times that social media is making us lonely. But still, day after day we spend hours glued to our newsfeeds. We make new connections, obsessively stalk and show affection by liking pictures. It feels like we are more connected than ever. But, are we? According to a new study, our social sharing may not be as harmless as it seems. Could it be that the platforms designed to be social are actually making us lonelier than ever? Nerve Online attempts to find out…

Conducted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Brian Primack, a new study has been the first of its kind to link social media use to social isolation in the US. Asking participants how often they spend on social media, the key finding, ironically, was that the more digitally connected people become, the more socially detached they feel.

Is it possible we are scrolling too much?

The study revealed that the average time spent on social media was an hour a day. Realistically, how many of us spend much more than that? Well, if you do it might be doing some serious damage.

Apparently, those that spend more than two hours a day had around twice the odds of feeling isolated.

And, what’s more, for those that visited social media platforms more than 58 times per week the odds tripled. Let’s face it, with the amount of time we spend watching videos on Facebook, Snapping Snapchat stories and lusting over the rich kids of Instagram, the odds aren’t exactly in our favour.

What’s the reason why?

Is social media affecting our relationships?

It turns out that the longer we are logged on, the more we experience a decreased sense of belonging. The result? Lower engagement with others (real engagement, not likes and comments) and less fulfilling relationships (maybe the Insta’ couples aren’t ‘goals’ after all). According to the researchers, this may be due to several possible reasons.

Firstly, the more time we dedicate to social media the less we leave for talking to others outside of the virtual world. Why meet up for a chat when a virtual one is far easier? Then, there’s the added pressure that comes with following others. Essentially, having success shoved in our faces (it’s no secret people post the highlights) makes us feel envious. Finally, there’s every possibility that people who are already prone to feeling isolated end up using social media more often. Afer all, online interaction is better than none.

What can we do?

As Millenial’s, social media isn’t exactly something we can escape from. It’s where every event is shared, our group conversations take place, plus it’s a pretty helpful news source too. What’s more, both our degrees and job prospects are dependent on our expert knowledge of the online world. With that in mind, we can’t exactly cut out the use of social media, so what’s the alternative?

According to the researchers,

to reduce the risk of isolation we should limit social use to 30 minutes each day and only check social platforms 9 times per week.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s hardly surprising if that sounds awfully unrealistic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the advice on board and make some changes, though.

Has our real-life interaction decreased?

Instead, we can consider that now scientific research has provided the correlation, we should be aware of potential isolation that arises from the use of social media. We can look for signs of constantly comparing our lives to others, feeling dependent on social conversations and development of obsessive scrolling. Once we get a handle on that, we can try to combat some of the negative impacts and use social media for its true purpose; bringing us together.

After all, so much of our lives depend on it.