A study from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researched the relationship between the amount of time spent by young people on social media and their feeling of loneliness. They found that not only does use of social media not solve the problem of loneliness, it actually intensifies it.
‘This topic is very important to research since loneliness, isolation and mental health issues are a plague to our youth’, according to Dr. Brian Primack the professor of medicine in charge of the study. ‘We are social creatures but modern life isolates us instead of bringing us closer to each other. It might seem to be that social media fills this void but I think that our research hints that it's not the solution people are hoping for.’
Dr. Brian Primack and his colleagues tracked 1787 young Americans from the age of 19 to 32 with questionnaires in order to establish the frequency and length of time they use social media. Their questions included use of 11 different social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more.
Results of the research show that even if you include variables of demography the youth that used social media more than 2 hours a day had double the risk of feeling socially isolated compared to the ones who spent less than a half hour a day on social media.
Participants that checked social media 58 times or more per week had three times the risk of feeling socially isolated as compared to people that only visited these sites nine times a week or less.
The researchers admit that they don't know what came first, using the social media or the feeling of social isolation. However they maintain that even if the participants used social media because of a feeling of social isolation it is clear that the social media did not ease their loneliness. The Assumption actually is that the social media even intensifies the feeling because the more time a person spends and these platforms the less time he spends with actual people. In addition in social media people tend to show the ideal version of themselves to others so it is very easy for someone to get caught up in the illusion that everyone else is living more interesting and happier lives. This mistaken belief also adds to the intensity of the loneliness.
In summary, the researchers recommend that family doctors whose patients say they feel lonely should ask those patients about their social media viewing habits and actually advise them to curtail social media use when deemed necessary.