People who engage in social media platforms may think they are being truly connecting with friends, family, and colleagues by posting pics, liking photos, and participating in discussions; however, a new study reveals that social media users actually increase their risks around social isolation.
In the past, research has linked living alone and loneliness with increased chances of mortality. In fact, that feeling of isolation has been associated with a heightened chance of early death by up to 26%. Therefore, it is not too shocking that research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh reveals the negative ways that social media can affect social isolation.
Medical News Today revealed that the research team lead, Dr. Brian A. Primack, Ph.D., goes into detail around the goals for the study, stating this issue is an important one to look into because of how mental health issues and social isolation are at rampant levels when it comes to young adults today.
Researchers looked into patterns around social media use across America, using over 1,700 adults from 19 to 32 years of age. The team provided participants with questionnaires to fill out, asking about time and frequency around a number of popular social media sites in 2014. These included: Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and the ever popular, Facebook.
The study team used the self-reporting data offered by participants and a tool known as Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System, as a way to measure and analyze the mental, physical, and social well-being of the those who participated in the study.
The team gathered their numbers and after adjusting them based on a variety of demographic and social factors, the study revealed that people who used social media for over two hours daily had twice the risk of feeling socially isolated, versus those that may only peruse social media for under one hour daily.
To boot, those within the study who used social media 58 times weekly (or over) had a triple increased chance of social isolation, versus those who spend less than nine visits weekly.
The study was an observational one, therefore it cannot determine the reasons behind the link or causality. Still, the researchers have some theories on why this may be. One fine example is the idea that time on social media replaces moments that may be used for more face-to-face interactions. Another explanation is that social media can stir up emotions of exclusion (i.e. pictures of parties may create people wondering why they weren’t invited, etc.). Lastly, and along the same lines as the above, is that social media posts can sometimes trigger jealousy, as most people post only the positives of their lives; having some wonder why their lives aren’t as great as their ‘friends’ on social media.
Regardless, the lead author of the study does note that more research needs to be done to reveal the differences and motives around social media use and the reasoning behind how it affects social isolation.