“People are lonely. The network is seductive. But if we are always on, we may deny ourselves the rewards of solitude.” These are the words of professor and psycholinguistic Sherry Turkle in her book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” in which she argues that even though with our technology we are more connected than ever the reality is that we aren’t less alone than before and in some cases but be even more isolated than before. But, how true are her concerns?
Well, one study by Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan suggests the longer someone spends on Facebook, the worse their mood gets.
“Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.”
In a similar route and much more controversial study, Facebook helped alter the news feeds of users and the balance of positive and negative content. The conclusion drawn was that users moods where affected by the content they saw so those that saw positive messages where inclined to respond likewise and those who saw more negative content would also post more negative content.
Pretty damning stuff when you look at it. Who would think our virtual interactions would produce such results? Though the real question to answer is: Is our social media making us lonely and isolated whether by choice or not?
Well first off, you probably have some type of social media account and so do your friends. Why shouldn’t you? It’s a popular and effective way to communicate?.Let’s just look at the problems that arise whether you have an account or not.
If you don’t, it may sometimes feel like you don’t belong or excluded from things. Friends will mention things that have happened on social media that you won’t have a clue about. This is where a lot of the time party invite lists are first created. Maybe a friend will ask if you’ve been invited but you still haven’t because of the fact that there is a delay because of your lack of social media.
Though that scenario may seem silly, it spawns a legitimate concern in which instead of cliques in your everyday life, it’s a clique in virtual space.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, what happens when you’re logged on? You scroll through posts and leave one of many comments or someone messages you, most likely because of boredom. I’m not saying these conversations aren’t meaningful or can’t be it’s just on the lower end of the spectrum rather than the higher. How many times have you engaged in conversation in Social Media with someone that you rarely speak to or someone that annoys you only out of boredom? I’m betting at least once.
While all these things are fairly innocuous, what greater effect do they have? While social media is great as cliché as it is as with all things used in moderation. A friend is having a birthday. What about instead of a Facebook Birthday message, you give them a call if you can? Having a party why not try calling people up or sending out invites. On occasion such gestures will be appreciated and make your friends and family feel special.
So does social media makes us lonely? In a lot of cases yes. So what do we do about it? While yes it is your life and friends you just have to remember that what happens or doesn’t happen on social media much like in meatspace aren’t the end of the world.
Email Luis Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org