Increased Online Social Connections Linked To Increased Social Isolation

online social mediaMore people are now quite aware of online social media. Making social connections online has become more convenient and allows people to build up social networks at the comfort of their own homes. Many see it as a way for people to meet others via an online venue. But what may be a means for people to spread their networks may actually be doing the opposite. A recent study indicates that increased use of online social media may also be linked increased feelings of social isolation.

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine analyzed a sample of 1,787 adults in the US with ages ranging from 19 to 32 in 2014. They used questionnaires to determine how long and how often participants use the 11 most popular social media platforms during that time. During the same period, the researchers also measured perceived social isolation of the study participants by using a validated assessment tool called the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System.

The researchers discovered that participants who reported spending more than two hours a day on online social media platforms had two times the odds for perceived social isolation as compared to those who reported spending less than an hour on social media sites daily. In addition, they found out that participants who visited the different social media platforms 58 or more times in a week showed three times the odds of perceived social isolation as compared to participants who visited fewer than nine online social media sites per week.

“We do not yet know which came first — the social media use or the perceived social isolation,” says senior author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Miller is a professor of pediatrics at Pitt and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “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,” she further added.

The researchers have also developed some theories as to why online social media use can fuel feeling s of social isolation. Some of the include:

  • Online social media replaces actual social experiences with other people. The more people spend on social media, the less time they spend on actual real-world interactions.
  • Exposure to highly idealized life experiences of peers on social media sites may elicit feelings of envy and create the perception that others lead happier and more successful lives.
  • Social media may encourage the feeling of being excluded especially during instances of seeing peers having fun at an event where one was not invited.

Social isolation is said to be increasing among young adults and has been independently associated with increased risk of mortality. Increased online social media use to connect with people does not seem to help in solving the issue, according to this study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Source:  Science Daily


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