Is Social Making Us Lonely...?
How many of you have waved at someone you’re sure you ‘know’ in the street only for them to look at you like you’ve gone bat-shit crazy? Yep, that happened.
“I’m sure I recognised them only to realise, I did, but they had no idea who I was because I had recently stalked them on Facebook. Cringe.” - Chloe, UOkHun HQ
And how many of you go to social gatherings and ask the question “so, how are you?”, only to practically switch off at “yeah..I’m gre -” because you know damn well how they are from their incessant Instagram posts “#LovingLife #BabesForevs”...
Joking aside, how many of you feel lonely? We wouldn’t want to assume at this premature stage of UOkHun’s existence the average age range of our readers, but according to the BBC Radio 4 Survey and their ‘The Loneliness Experiment’, out of 55,000 participants 40% of 16-24 year olds so often or all of the time. 16-24 year olds are the loneliest age group of all participants. Why?
Well one cause might seem the most obvious...
Whilst our parents may wander down to the local pub for quiz night, or call round to Crazy Barbs house for a brew, we’ll be curled up on the coach re-watching Love Island & tagging our bezzie’s in Gemma Collins memes. And whilst we may not immediately notice, the effects of spending our time in the digital world has to have an impact on our basic human need for physical interactions.
“When I was 16, I was meeting my mates after school to practice for the dance competition or hanging about in the local rugby club stadium drinking WKD and taking selfies on disposable cameras to put into my scrap book later. When I wasn’t out, I was on the phone to my best friend who I had just air-kissed goodbye off the school bus, and who it’s worth mentioning, lived next door. Did I feel lonely? I can’t say I ever did. When I was 20 I worked three jobs around university so I was too busy to be lonely. When I was 24, I noticed I would talk to myself. I cried around my 8 man empty dining table. I was lonely in hindsight, but I don’t think I realised it then.” - Chloe - UOKHun.co.uk
Here at UOkHun.co.uk we asked our closest pals their thoughts. The majority voted.
For them at least, it wasn’t because of social media that they felt lonely, it was because the pace of their lives meant they were so busy and fundamentally exhausted to socialise. They preferred to get their slacks on and relax in bed - scrolling social media. The other point one of our friends pointed out was that they have to be social in their jobs, all day, almost every day. They can’t face being social outside of that time too.
So what’s changed? Why the sudden uplift in depression and loneliness?
Where depression & the impact social media has on it, Forbes Magazine explains that
“... positive experiences on social media may be associated with fleeting positive reinforcement, while negative experiences -- such as public social media arguments -- may rapidly escalate and leave a lasting, potentially traumatic impression. It also may be that socially isolated people lean toward social media use that involves negative interactions. It is probably a mix of both."
Well that makes sense. We all know that little pat on the back we get when we get a few likes on a post. But how does that link to loneliness?
And how can we be social all day, almost every day at work, but still be lonely?
Is it the falsity of these social interactions? The fact that we feel we have to be social, rather than want to be social. Are we therefore not fulfilling our root desires for interaction because it feels like a chore rather than pleasure thus, at the end of the day feeling unfulfilled and lonely? *scratch head moment
An article published on ScienceDaily.com explains a few of these questions: “In a study of individuals who utilize Twitter and Facebook, participants who admitted to going out of their way to seek validation (e.g., likes) and to portray a perfect profile were more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be less trusting of others. If an individual is focused on minimizing their flaws and concerns, they may lack the ability to relate to others about actual life experiences. Also, their own knowledge of their altered reality could cause someone to feel fraudulent and disconnected. Finally, their obviously skewed profile could cause others to feel a lack of connection as well.”
So in essence, the more we spend on social seeking validation, feeling that pat on the back from the number of hearts on our recent selfie the more likely we are to feel disconnected from reality and relate to others on a real-life level. Pair this idea with the report that 1/3rd of 15 year olds spend 6 hours a day on Instagram. Ouch.
Just take a moment to reflect on your Instagram page and think about how 50% of that content makes you feel. Now imagine you’re as influential as you were when you were 15. 6 hours a day on Instagram means either they are scrolling during Physics class or they are spending the hours of 4pm (home time) to 10pm (bed time) on it. Either way, that’s not a lot of time for socialising at the rugby club.
The danger here is frightening.
What would happen if you counted every post you liked, every post you commented on and posted. Then, you took yourself off social media for one month and for every like, comment or post, you did something physically social..? You met for coffee, you spoke to a stranger, you went to church, you spoke to your neighbour, you joined a social group. What would happen…? If you did the above but still used social media, would you still be lonely?
As Rebecca Nowland from The Conversation.com said “...We cannot blame social media for high levels of loneliness among young people, because smart phones and social media can be used in ways that allow us to feel connected with others, make new friends and share our experiences. Young people who feel lonely can address this problem by changing the way they use social media, so that it supplements the time they spend with others – rather than replacing it.”
We post on our social media pages almost with a pressure of frequency, so much so we post pictures of our coffee & paper or useless selfies that do nothing but to confirm we’re alive.
But being alive is very different from living.
Maybe we need to spend more time taking action shots of real-life situations rather than lonesome selfies or forced boomerangs? Maybe the answer is sharing more genuineness as and when they happen without any pressure of frequency. Maybe it’s OK if Sally hasn’t posted in a week. Maybe you should call and check in on her?
Maybe, just maybe, if we used social media responsibly to share ONLY real life, in the moment, honest posts thus creating a reachable world, a world that didn’t feel so far from our own realities we would all feel more connected, more alive and a lot less alone.