Social media has completely changed the way that people communicate with each other. Getting in touch (and keeping in touch) is easier than ever thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter.
With contact with other people so easy to achieve, it seems like loneliness would be much less of an issue, doesn’t it? However, some studies indicate that’s just not the case. Excessive social media participation can actually cause feelings of loneliness to build. Here are a few of the positive and negative effects of social media in our lives.
Not so long ago, we had to reach out to our friends over the phone to catch up with them. Today, reading the latest news from your friends and family is as easy as scrolling through your social media feed.
Chances are, more than a few of your friends post updates about their lives, from major occurrences to weekend and summer activities. The steady stream of updates is meant to make you feel more connected and keeps you from feeling lonely.
But, the quick source of social updates isn’t the only benefit. Social networks also give you a place to reach out to others when you feel like you need someone to talk to. We tend to add people to our “friends” list who we actually know in real life. This means that if you post an update about needing someone to talk to, it’s likely that your friends will see this and respond. By reaching out through social media, you may find someone you can confide in that you wouldn’t otherwise think to ask for help.
Research shows that using social media could be linked to feelings of unhappiness and loneliness. Ethan Kross, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, lead a study of the effects of Facebook on the moods of the residents of Ann Arbor.
Participants were asked five times per day how they were feeling in terms of happiness, loneliness or depression. The results show that the more each person used Facebook in between being interviewed, the more they indicated they were feeling unhappy.
What causes these feelings of unhappiness? While researchers aren’t entirely sure, it may be due to the lack of depth that these online relationships provide. People often want to create a certain image of themselves on their social media profile and may want to draw attention to the good while not mentioning the bad. This lack of total sincerity could prevent your online relationships from fulfilling your social needs in the same way that a face-to-face conversation can.
Another way that the use of social media correlates with the level of loneliness someone feels has to do with material goods and opportunities. For example, many people who don’t have much money get depressed and feel more isolated when they look at their friends’ feeds.
These friends could be posting pictures about their latest vacation or purchase of some sort. If a lonely person never hears from the person who just posted the pictures, they might easily feel an even greater level of loneliness and misfortune.
The best way to avoid some of the pitfalls of social media is to not let it rule your life. Try to get out of the house and meet people face-to-face. It remains one of the best ways to eliminate the feelings of loneliness in your life.