By Nicola Bartlett.
Young adults who use social media feel more lonely, say psychologists.
More than two hours of social media use a day doubled the chances of a person experiencing social isolation .
Higher numbers of visits to social media sites have a negative effect as well as the amount of time spent online, the US research shows.
Study participants who visited various sites 58 or more times per week were three times more at risk of isolation than those visiting less than nine times per week.
But scientists involved in the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, said they couldn’t be sure whether people were already lonely and drawn to social media or if the online platforms were making them isolated.
But they did conclude that social media did not make people feel more connected.
Co-author Elizabeth Miller, professor of paediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, said: “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.
Certain aspects of social media may encourage feelings of exclusion
“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.”
Lead scientist Professor Brian Primack, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said it was an important study because mental health problems and social isolation are at ‘epidemic levels’ among young adults.
“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,” he said.
The link with isolation was found even after taking account of social and demographic factors that might have influenced the results.
The scientists have several theories to explain the findings including the idea that the more time a person spends online, the less time is left for real-world interactions.
The team questioned 1,787 adults aged 19 to 32 about their use of the 11 most popular social media platforms (Photo: Getty)
In addition, they believe that certain aspects of social media may encourage feelings of exclusion, such as seeing photos of friends enjoying an event to which you have not been invited.
Also, exposure to idealised representations of other people’s lives may elicit feelings of envy and promote the belief that your life is disappointing and dull in comparison, the researchers believe.
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, Pintrest, 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.