New Study Suggests Too Much Social Media Could Make You Feel Lonelier

A study from the University of Pittsburgh says frequent usage of social media may make you more likely to feel socially isolated.

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Here's a study that seems kind of surprising at first, but actually kind of makes sense seeing as how creeping on your friends and tweeting "F*** YOU" at politicians you don't like never seemed like it would be all that healthy to begin with.

According to the findings of a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine experiment, the more time that a young adult spends on social media, the more likely it is they'll feel socially isolated. The conclusion, which was published on Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, finds that social media won't present a solution to a lackluster social life if you already lack fulfilling relationships with people. As if that doesn't suck enough, past studies have found that social isolation correlates with an increased risk of an early death.

"This is an important issue to study because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults," said Brian A. Primack, the lead author of the study. "We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together. 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."

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Back in 2014, Primack, along with several other researchers, asked almost 2,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 32 about the frequency with which they use the 11 top social media platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) What they found was that the shut-ins who were on social media for two or more hours per day were twice as likely to be socially isolated as their lesser shut-in peers who were on social media for half-an-hour or less per day. On top of that, participants who were on social media 58+ times per week were three times as likely to be lacking in social contact as people who were on nine times or less per week.

This, of course, presents a chicken or the egg problem.

"We do not yet know which came first--the social media use or the perceived social isolation," said researcher Elizabeth Miller. "It's possible that young adults who initially felt socially isolated turned to social media. Or it could be that their increased use of social media somehow led to feeling isolated from the real world. It also could be a combination of both. But even if the social isolation came first, it did not seem to be alleviated by spending time online, even in purportedly social situations."

The findings led them to a number of theories, some of which include: browsing social media takes up the time that could be spent having real human interactions. That social media makes people feel like they're missing out, like when they see the picture of an event they weren't invited to. And that looking at other people's profiles can inspire jealousy because everyone always makes their lives look so glamorous on Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Both Primack and Miller believe doctors should ask patients about their social media usage, and that they should advise their patients reduce their time on those platforms if they're feeling socially deprived. Also, like always with these damn studies, they said that more research is necessary to fully understand the issue.

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