Psychologists say too much social media can make you feel lonely and isolated

Psychologists say too much social media can make you feel lonely and isolated

You may already have a sense that social media isn’t very good for you.

But now some psychologists have weighed in to suggest that sites which are designed to help us stay connected actually make us feel more alone.

A study by US academics at the University of Pittsburgh has found the more time young adults spend on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the more likely they are to feel cut off from society.

Spending more than two hours a day on them can double the chances of a person feeling that way, but the negative effects can come from a high number of visits as well as the amount of time spent online.

twitter on a smartphone (Lauren Hurley/PA)
(Lauren Hurley/PA)

The team questioned 1,787 adults aged 19 to 32 about their use of the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time the research was conducted in 2014: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Each person was assessed for self-perceived social isolation using a standard technique called the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (Promis) that provides scores for a wide range of measurements.

The link with isolation was found even after taking account of social and demographic factors that might have influenced the results.

a person uses a laptop alone in the dark (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The scientists have several theories to explain the findings. One is that social media use displaces more authentic experiences because the more time a person spends online, the less time is left for real-world interactions.

Another backs the belief that the FOMO struggle is real – seeing pictures of your mates hanging out at an event which you’ve not been invited to may encourage feelings of exclusion.

And being exposed to idealised representations of other people’s lives may make you feel envious and that your life is dull in comparison.

So if you find yourself feeling any of these things while online, it’s probably time to log off.

The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.