Here’s a sad truth: social media is anything but social. Today, we’re tethered to our phones, to our laptops, to our tablets and engage with people virtually instead of in real life. And, to top it off, it’s doing the opposite of what its supposed to do. Using social media is actually making us lonelier.
In a recent survey of 20,000 Americans, it seems loneliness is becoming an epidemic. Nearly half of the respondents reported feeling alone sometimes or all of the time. Social media plays a large part in that.
For people who spend hours a day on social media platforms, the feelings of loneliness and being less than are far more prevalent.
Why social media can make us lonelier
- There’s a false sense of connection. Even though it was created for people to be more social, using these platforms results in people actually being around people less in real life. Now, we aren’t getting into social groups in real life, and as a result, are missing direct personal feedback.
- We become more focused on fitting in online than in the real world. Our desire to be a part of groups and cliques online can raise anxiety. We can get into a space where we become less social and more isolated. Plus, there’s a constant fear of rejection around “likes” online. If someone doesn’t receive the gratification of “likes” it can have a negative impact on us.
- It impacts our psyche. The other day, I posted a photo on Instagram without a filter. A teenager I work with told me I was brave to do that. Brave. Posting filtered/air brushed/altered images of ourselves online can cause lasting self-esteem issues. We lose the confidence we need to love and accept ourselves as we are and instead seek outside approval and hold ourselves to unreachable standards.
- It causes a fear of missing out. If you’re sitting at home and thinking everyone is doing these amazing things, you start creating storylines about yourself and think everyone else is doing something cool and you’re not.
- Connections are merely surface level. This is one of the most important things when it comes to social media and loneliness. We lose out on authentic and deep connections because we don’t give ourselves a chance to have them in real life; instead, we sit on our devices and seek surface level connections via online platforms.
How to curb loneliness brought on from social media
- First and foremost, if you’re starting to feel lonely, disconnect from social media. Unplug. Take a time out.
- If you can’t disconnect entirely from social media, limit your use to less than 30 minutes a day. Keeping it to this time results in a higher level of happiness and much lower sense of loneliness. Plus, keeping it limited drastically improves your mental well being.
- Create real time and real life experiences with people. Put down your phone and get outside and into the world with other people and engage.
- Put social media into context. Remember, Instagram is a “best of” reel. It’s like fake news; people put their best version of themselves online, but we are all human and perfectly imperfect.