By Ryan Velez
Social media, in theory, should be a creation that allows us to reach out further to those near us and far away from us, with the ability to communicate and share in new and exciting ways. Yet, for all these innovations, social media may not lead to the feelings you expect, especially for younger people, who tend to use it the most. Black Enterprise reports that a recent study from American Journal of Preventative Medicine has found a potential relation between high social media use and feelings of isolation in young adults.
The research team conducted the study with an email survey sent randomly to over 3,000 “non-institutionalized” adults between the ages of 19-32. Participants were first asked about their social media habits, including their usage of social media and Internet platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Reddit, for both work and personal use. They then were asked various questions about their emotional state, such as how frequently in the past seven days they felt “left out;” “that people barely know me;” “isolated from others;” and “that people are around me but not with me.” The aim of this was to find correlations between what was described as Perceived Social Isolation (PSI) and Social Media Use (SMU).
While the researchers figured that more SMU would lead to less PSI, the final results would show that the opposite was true. Those who used social media for 121 minutes per day or more showed high feelings of isolation in general. This went to the point that those respondents were twice as likely to feel lonely and isolated compared with those who used social media less than 30 minutes a day. Other results showed lower levels of PSI among married people as well as those making an income between $30,000 and $75,000 per year.
The researchers shared some of their potential reasons for this phenomenon in the results section of the study’s abstract. “It may be that individuals who are already feeling socially isolated tend to subsequently use more social media; those with fewer ‘in-person’ social outlets may turn to online networks as a substitute” and “those who use increased amounts of social media subsequently develop increased social isolation,” they shared. It will be interesting to see if future studies in this area provide info regarding specific types of social media and feelings of isolation, or how other age bands of people match up to these findings.