We’ve never had more ‘friends’ than we do now – with most of us rocking lists of hundreds of mates on Facebook and other social networks, and getting showers of ‘Likes’ every time we share a picture of our breakfast. There’s just one problem – we’ve never felt more alone.
Use of social media sites is leading to an epidemic of social isolation – with people who use social media for two hours a day particularly at risk. Adults who visit social sites 58 or more times per week were three times more at risk of isolation than those visiting less than nine times per week.
The more time young adults spend on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, the more likely they are to feel cut off from the rest of society, a study has found. Lead scientist Professor Brian Primack, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said: ‘This is an important issue to study because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults. ‘We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalise us instead of bringing us together.
‘While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for.’ The team questioned 1,787 adults aged 19 to 32 about their use of the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time the research was conducted in 2014: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
Each person was assessed for self-perceived social isolation using a standard technique called the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (Promis) that provides scores for a wide range of measurements. The link with isolation was found even after taking account of social and demographic factors that might have influenced the results. (*Source: METRO Monday 6 Mar 2017)
Co-author Elizabeth Miller, professor of paediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, said: ‘We do not yet know which came first – the social media use or the perceived social isolation. ‘It’s possible that young adults who initially felt socially isolated turned to social media. Or it could be that their increased use of social media somehow led to feeling isolated from the real world. ‘It also could be a combination of both. But even if the social isolation came first, it did not seem to be alleviated by spending time online, even in purportedly social situations.’