A new study went to show that too much social media may actually help increase the feeling of loneliness and isolation. This is in direct opposition to their perceived purpose.
According to the study researchers, social isolation levels have reached epidemic values. The team went to study this phenomenon and its potential connection to social media.
Research was carried out by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health. The team was led by Dr. Brian Primack, who is also the Center’s director. Study results were released on March 6th. They were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Over 1,700 United States adult residents were involved in the study. They are aged in between 19 to 32 years old. Study participants received questionnaires. These latter targeted specific areas. For example, one determined the estimated period of time spent by on social media platforms. Another tried to assess how socially isolated they felt.
The researchers used, for their analysis, 11 of the most popular social media platforms. The list included the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Based on the questionnaire responses, the scientists established the following fact. Too much social media may actually make a user feel more isolated and lonely. On average, people spend over an hour each day on such platforms. To be more exact, they spend a daily average of 61 minutes. The participants also access social platforms for a median of 30 times per week.
Around 27 percent of those questioned reportedly feel high levels of social isolation. These levels were noted to grow in direct accordance to the time spent on social sites. For example, adults that spend over two hours each day on such sites are twice as likely to report high isolation levels. And the values just kept increasing. At least when compared to people who spend less than 30 minutes per day on such sites.
The results may seem in direct contrast with the purpose of social platforms. These latter can help alleviate or relieve the social loneliness and isolation feelings. But they may also have the opposite effect. Especially for young adults, spending too much social media can do more harm than good.
It can unwillingly limit in-person, direct social interactions. According to the study, it can also lead to false impressions. More exactly, unrealistic online portrays can make a person seem to have a happier, better life. Which may increase other users’ feelings of isolation.
This term is used in order to define a series of effects. For example, the lack of a sense of belonging. It is also used in cases of lack of fulfilling relations or true engagement with others.
Nonetheless, the study researchers did point out a fact. They are as yet unsure whether too much social media led to social isolation. Or if perhaps it is the exact opposite. If maybe people spend too time on such platforms because they already felt isolated.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller went to offer an explanation on the matter. She is a senior study author and a Pediatrics Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
According to her, it is possible that young adults that feel socially isolated turn to an increased usage of social media. Miller states that it may also be a combination of both these factors.
Nonetheless, spending too much time online did not seem to alleviate the situation. Miller stated that the feeling of social isolation was not seemingly helped by the many hours spent on the social platforms.
As it is, the research team stated that more studies would have to be made. These may help better understand the relation between social media and social isolation.
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