It’s official: social media has a seriously bad effect on our mental health. Whilst we all admit to feeling a bit of FOMO when we’re in on a Saturday night whilst everyone else appears to be out living it up, a study has revealed it goes much, much further than that. Published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, this study essentially proves that the more we use social media, the more isolated we feel.
But does this go beyond FOMO?
In a word, yes. Fear Of Missing Out plays a big part in why social media has such a bad impact on us, but they also found that the more we use social media, the lonelier we feel. Basically, social media is anything but social. The study found this out by monitoring people who used social media for two or more hours per day and comparing their feelings of isolation against those who used it for half an hour or less per day.
According to the report “participants who visited various social media platforms 58 or more times per week had about triple the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than nine times per week.”
Is it a case of us becoming more isolated because we’re using social media so much or a case of social media itself making us feel isolated in the first place? It’s pretty unclear at this point.
“We do not yet know which came first–the social media use or the perceived social isolation,” said senior author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Pitt and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC:
“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 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.”
What does this mean for your mental health?
With social media being blamed for so many mental health problems, this study might actually back up some of the claims.
“Mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults,” said lead author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences. “While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill [a] social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for.”
What do you think? Does social media do more harm than good? Or is it a positive lifeline that should be praised?