The more young adults use social media, the more likely they are to feel socially isolated, according to a study.
The more time a young adult uses social media, the more likely they are to feel socially isolated, according to a national analysis led by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists. In addition to the time spent online, the scientists found that frequency of use was associated with increased social isolation.
The finding, published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests that use of social media does not present a panacea to help reduce perceived social isolation — when a person lacks a sense of social belonging, true engagement with others and fulfilling relationships. In the past, social isolation has been independently associated with an increased risk for mortality.
In 2014, Primack and his colleagues sampled 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, using questionnaires to determine time and frequency of social media use by asking about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
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The scientists measured participants’ perceived social isolation using a validated assessment tool called the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System.
The researchers have several theories for how increased use of social media could fuel feelings of social isolation, including:
- Social media use displaces more authentic social experiences because the more time a person spends online, the less time there is for real-world interactions.
- Certain characteristics of social media facilitate feelings of being excluded, such as when one sees photos of friends having fun at an event to which they were not invited.
- Exposure to highly idealized representations of peers’ lives on social media sites may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives.