Heavy use of social media may lead to social isolation, study sa - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Heavy use of social media may lead to social isolation, study says

A new study suggests that people who spend lots of time on social media may be more socially isolated than those who spend less time on the social platforms..(Source: Pixabay/Rainer_Maiores) A new study suggests that people who spend lots of time on social media may be more socially isolated than those who spend less time on the social platforms..(Source: Pixabay/Rainer_Maiores)

(RNN) - Logging onto social media sites may seem like a surefire cure for loneliness. But a new study suggests that people who spend a lot of time looking for strong social connections via sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are likely creating self-sabotage, setting themselves up for social isolation.

The authors of the study, published in the March 6 issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, point out that social isolation is different from simple loneliness. Social isolation is a lack of a sense of belonging, real engagement with people and fulfilling relationships, and it has been linked to an increased risk of mortality. 

Lead author Brian A. Primack contends that in this connected age, social isolation has reached "epidemic levels" among those in the 19-32 age group.  

"We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together," Primack said. "While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for."

Primack and his colleagues gave questionnaires to 1,787 American between the ages of 19 and 32, asking about how frequently they used social media, specifically its 11 most popular platforms. At the time of the research, in 2014, the top sites were Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Among the participants, those who stayed on these sites for more than two hours a day had twice the odds of experiencing social isolation than their peers who were less active on social media. Those who visited various sites more than 58 times a week had triple the odds, the study said.

For the researchers, it's still a kind of chicken-or-egg dilemma. They don't know whether the social media use came before the perceived social isolation, or whether heavy social media users were already socially isolated.  

Senior author Elizabeth Miller said it's possible that young people who already felt socially isolated turned to social media for a sense of connection - or even socially connected people felt more and more isolated as they increasingly used social media.

"But even if the social isolation came first, it did not seem to be alleviated by spending time online, even in purportedly social situations," Miller said. 

The study proposes the solution may be something that we used to take for granted - everyday, face-to-face, meaningful interaction with other people.

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