Social media is the 21st century way of connecting with others.
But a new study finds that too much social media can lead to disconnection and loneliness – or the opposite of what we believe the core of social media to be.
The study, “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.,” which was published on March 6, 2017 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that excessive time spent on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other popular platforms were linked to social isolation in young adults.
The research team surveyed 1,787 U.S. adults aged 19 to 32, querying them on their usage of 11 social media platforms for leisure purposes. They also asked them questions related to social isolation.
Participants that spent the most time on social media – over two hours a day – had twice the odds of social isolation compared to those who spent half-an-hour a day or less on the same platforms. People who visited social media networks the most (58+ visits a week) showed a three times higher risk of social isolation that those who viewed them less than nine times a week.
According to Tom Kersting, psychotherapist and author of Disconnected, to understand these findings, we must first understand these ‘connections’ created through social media.
“Humans are social-emotional beings, meaning that it is in our DNA to be connected, face-to-face, with other humans,” he told Reader’s Digest in an interview. “Although people think being on social media all the time makes them ‘connected’ to others, they are actually ‘disconnected,’ because the more time one spends behind a screen, the less time one spend face-to-face.
“Part of the issue of loneliness is that the majority of people who use social media aren’t just posting, they are also viewing,” Kersting continued. “They are spending a lot of time voyeuristically looking at everyone else’s posts, where they are, where they are going and what they are doing. The constant exposure to everyone else’s ‘perfect’ life experiences causes feelings of being left out, of being lonely.”
So what’s the solution?
It’s simple, explains Kersting—although you’ll need to exercise some serious will power.
“The solution to this is resisting the temptation to look at everyone else’s life. Just focus on your own life, where you’re going, what you are grateful for, and what you want to accomplish in this world. Then go out and do it, and stop wasting so much time comparing.”
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