It turns out that having a lot of Facebook friends doesn’t necessarily correlate to having real friends. A national analysis, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests that young adults who frequently use social media often experience more loneliness and isolation.
In a sample of 1,787 U.S. millennials, researchers discovered that participants who used social media for more than two hours a day were two times more likely to feel isolated when compared to their peers who spent less than thirty minutes a day on social media.
While social media can be used as a tool to engage with others, the researcher team found that social media cannot replace in-person engagement. Instead, heavy social media use elicits feelings of exclusion and envy due to constant exposure to idealized versions of their peers’ lives.
Social isolation, which is associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality, is becoming a common theme among young adults. Researchers noted that there is a possibility that those who are already social isolated may be drawn to social media use. Still, they believe that social media tends to always be connected with increased loneliness.
Speaking about the study, lead author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D said “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.”
Jane Snyder is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer and photojournalist based out of Athens, Georgia.