Excessive social media use can lead to social isolation and mental problems

It feels good to be connected. Most people take to social networking sites to connect with like-minded people or those with similar interests or with friends and relatives. It is a good way to stay in touch with people living far off. The interlinking between various social networking sites has helped people gain access to more information. This has drastically altered the way people communicate and do business. However, spending more time on various social media platforms might also increase the chances of feeling isolated on a social level, says a recent study.

The study, titled “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.,” suggested that though posting and liking may heighten perception of connectivity among those involved, it may not necessarily raise the sense of belonging and fulfillment.

The premise of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in March 2017, is that perception of being alone in a social environment has been associated with a large number of deaths in the past. As social media platforms commonly explored by young adults are believed to bring in loneliness, the authors aimed to examine the link between social media use (SMU) and perceived social isolation (PSI) among young adults.

Effect of social media on young adults

Young adults today are facing a host of emotional disorders coupled with feelings of social isolation. There is an impression that increased use of social media could help ameliorate feelings of isolation, though the researchers suggested that the effect may not be so positive as intended, considering the lack of personal interactions involved. Not all people portray the real versions of themselves which may cause other people to feel low, deprived and underprivileged.

The researchers questioned 1,787 American young adults aged between 19 and 32 years. The participants were asked to share their emotions about the extent of social isolation they experienced and the degree to which they used popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The researchers observed that the respondents were active on social media sites for over an hour every day. In addition, they frequented social media sites for nearly 30 times every week.

Mental problems can stem from social isolation

The researchers observed that nearly 27 percent respondents informed they spent more than two hours on social media. Increased social media use was associated with more feelings of social isolation. The study also said that social isolation can disrupt sleep, affect cognition and mental health.

Elucidating on the limitation of the study, senior study author Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said, “We do not yet know which came first — social media use, or the perceived social isolation. 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. It could also 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.”

Treatment for mental problems is possible

Prior studies have indicated how the feeling of social isolation can result in heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression-like behavior. The reclusiveness that stems from social isolation can intensify stress and anxiety. This may cause depression or add to the existing nervousness.

Stress must be treated before it escalates. If you or your loved one is struggling with some kind of mental health problem, contact 247 Mental Health Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online for expert advice on mental health services in your vicinity.