Although social media is intended to connect us to the world, a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh has found that the more time a person spends on social media, the more isolated he or she may feel. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive to say that social media may make you feel more lonely, but anyone who has started feeling low while looking at other people’s posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and the like can definitely relate.
The idea that social media can negatively impact your real social life isn’t really new, but this analysis printed in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine sheds some fascinating light onto the subject.
Back in 2014, the lead author of the study — Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health — and his colleagues used questionnaires to figure out how much time 1,787 people between the ages of 19 and 32 were spending on social media. They used the 11 most popular platforms at the time (which for the most part, are still pretty relevant): Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine (err RIP), and LinkedIn.
They also analyzed the participants’ perceived social isolation through the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System.
The researchers found that people who used social media more than two hours a day were twice as likely to perceive social isolation than the people who spent less than half an hour on social media each day.
The more sites you visit and the frequency can also impact your feelings of loneliness, since people who checked out social media sites 58 times a week or more had triple the odds of perceiving social isolation than people who visited sites less than nine times a week.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that social media is a direct cause of loneliness. As senior author of the study — Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh — said,
Yet, she did note that feelings of isolation did not seem to be improved by spending more time on social media.
So, if you’re inclined to feel isolated or lonely under any circumstances, then perhaps it would be helpful to monitor your social media use and see if it helps improve your mood. Because even though the wonderful and wacky world of the internet can bring us together and do a lot of good, if it’s making you feel more alone, it’s certainly not worth checking out your Twitter for the 100th time in a week.