70% of all adults in America have at least one social media account, with the majority having as many as seven. This gives the appearance of a modern America that is more closely connected than ever. Despite this, 20% of these individuals report feelings of loneliness. This has led many sociologists and mental health specialists to question whether social media is a boon or bane to feelings of isolation. The answer, as you might imagine, was not a simple one.
The Prevalence And Impact Of Social Media In The US
There are nearly 3.5 billion people currently using social media, and that number is growing. There are over 1 million new social media accounts opened every day. It’s common for users to spend as much as 2.5 hours on social media each day. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans between 18 and 29 use social media. 50% say it’s difficult to separate themselves from these platforms.
Despite this unprecedented level of interconnection, many of these individuals feel lonely. The American Psychological Association defines loneliness as an individual’s satisfaction with their social situation and connectedness. When individuals report a lack of belonging, meaningful engagement with others, and relationships they find fulfilling, they describe social isolation.
Social isolation and loneliness are known to profoundly impact mental and physical health. Their impact has been estimated to be twice that of obesity and boosts the risk of premature mortality. Being socially isolated has other associated risks, including:
- Impaired executive function
- Poor sleep quality
- Impaired immunity
So what’s social media’s role in all this? There has been evidence pointing in both directions. Social media can be a powerful tool for forming and maintaining connections between friends and family. It can provide support systems where no local ones exist. Those with stigmatizing or rare conditions can form communities irrespective of distance, showing the strength of our global connections. However, social media also comes with its dark side.
Social media can be used as a substitute for interacting face-to-face. It can also serve as a continuous stream of unrealistic expectations and manufactured portrayals of other people’s lives. This can enhance feelings of depression and inadequacy resulting from these comparisons. These two aspects of social media make it difficult to pen down its benefits vs. drawbacks.
Is Social Media Creating Isolation In Your Life?
The impact social media has on individual life varies. Many individuals find it fulfills an important area of their lives. While concern has been expressed about the amount of time spent on social media leading to social isolation, another possibility exists. One potential reason that social isolation and social media time are correlated is that socially isolated individuals may use social media more. This would indicate that excessive use indicates social isolation rather than a cause. If you’re concerned that you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of social isolation in connection with social media use, schedule a consultation with a mental health provider today.