By Mayah Taylor, MA
Since the beginning of the internet, pundits agree that social media has created a way to connect millions of people across the globe with each other through the internet and various electronic devices like computers and smartphones. Today’s social media consists of the popular Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat to name a few. However with all these ways to connect with others around the world, many Americans are suffering from loneliness. According to a survey conducted by health insurer Cigna, found that nearly half of Americans reported themselves as lonely. The study also found that younger Americans particularly in Generation “Z” (those born in the mid 1990s to early 2000s) are effected the most by loneliness. So does social media make you lonely?
In order to begin answering this question, let’s think about the pros and cons of using social media:
- Quick and easy communication
- Connecting with others all over the world
- Provides fun and enjoyment to users
- Risk of Privacy Issues
- Social peer pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle habits
- Online interaction vs face to face interaction
Now that we know some of the pros and cons of using social media. How can it affect a person’s loneliness? A big impact of social media is its promotion of online interaction. But with the online interaction breeds the demise of face-to-face interaction with others. In fact, social media can influence users to go out and interact with others less in traditional settings, and instead spend more time staring at their computers all day typing messages to people they’ve never even met. This may be helpful to those who suffer from social anxiety and struggle when interacting with others in person however; it is important to remember that the social media platform will not teach them necessary social skills or how to be successful at communicating. For this reason, even those hoping that social media will help them with their social awkwardness may find themselves even lonelier than they were before, and their awkwardness carrying over into the social media platform.
On the other hand, individuals who are very good at socializing will primarily use social media to not only communicate with current friends and family, but also to stay in touch with other friends and family that may be a distance away. I think the answer to whether or not social media makes you lonely is not a concrete answer. In fact I think it comes down to how an individual uses social media that can be a determining factor on whether one can become lonely from it. For example, there are those individuals that use social media to only view other people’s posts, pictures, and activities and then in turn make self comparisons to their own lives from the use of the platform which can cause them to feel more lonely. They call this the “The comparison trap.” On Facebook, for example, people’s lives seem more exciting and perfect that your own. When we go down the road of social comparison on social media, we end up feeling like our lives our insignificant. Then there are others, as mentioned before, that use social media to keep in contact with distant friends and family but are also great socializers in face-to- face interactions and are not affected with loneliness. The loneliness that comes from social media relies heavily on how the user chooses to use the platform. Additionally, we need to take into account those who may already be struggling with loneliness who may find themselves using social media where it impacts them negatively and further increasing their loneliness.
In the end, whether social media makes you feel lonely or not, depends on what you do when you’re online. If you find yourself passively browsing through social media, perhaps you should go to the self-help instead. We have plenty of blogs here on Life Cycles Counseling that give therapeutic advice on how to improve your social skills and strengthen your connections.
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