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Do Facebook and other platforms lead to social isolation?
Many people today use so-called social media platforms to connect with other people through postings and likes. However, researchers have now found that using social media platforms increases the likelihood of feeling isolated from society.
The researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that the use of social media platforms can lead to an increased feeling of isolation. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "American Journal of Preventive Medicine".
What do we mean by social isolation?
So-called social isolation is defined by a lack of belonging, true engagement with other people and a lack of fulfilled interpersonal relationships. Previous studies have already found that social isolation is associated with an increased risk of illness and death, the experts explain.
Young adults are particularly at risk
Psychological problems and social isolation have now grown to epidemic levels among young adults, explains study author Dr. Brian Primack from the University of Pittsburgh. It is possible that increased social media use can help some people alleviate feelings of social isolation. In young adults, however, such use can apparently have the opposite effect because it limits true interaction with other people, the doctors add.
Many people present themselves as unrealistic on social media platforms
In addition, social media can give people the impression that other people are living a much happier life. One reason for this could be that these people often present themselves unrealistically online, the researchers further explain.
Doctors are studying the effects of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
To determine how the use of social media is linked to the feeling of social isolation, the doctors used questionnaires in their study, which were filled out by more than 1,700 American adults between the ages of 19 and 32. Using the questionnaires, the experts then tried to assess how socially isolated people felt and how often these people used eleven different popular social media platforms. These included, for example, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Subjects spent an average of about an hour on social media each day
On average, the study participants spent just over an hour (61 minutes) every day on so-called social media platforms. The median was about 30 times a week. Just over a quarter (27 percent) of the subjects reported a high degree of social isolation. According to the researchers, greater use of social media could be linked to increased feelings of social isolation.
Strong users were at twice the risk
Compared to subjects in the study who spent less than 30 minutes a day using social media, strong users (more than two hours a day) of such platforms were about twice as likely to develop a feeling of a high level of social isolation, they say Scientist. When subjects used the social media platforms more than 58 times a week, they reported three times as often a feeling of a high level of social isolation compared to participants who controlled their social media accounts less than nine times a week.
However, it is still unclear what was there first - either using social media or perceived social isolation, explains Professor Elizabeth Miller of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Social media platforms do not alleviate existing social isolation
It is possible that young adults initially felt socially isolated before participating in social media. However, it could also be that the increased use of social media for some reason leads to the fact that those affected feel isolated from the real world, the scientists suspect. Of course, it could also be a combination of both situations, adds the professor. But even if social isolation first emerged, it didn't seem to be relieved by the time spent on social media platforms. (as)