Washington: Adults who have negative experiences on social media tend to report loneliness, a recent study suggests.
According to the research, positive interactions on social media are not making young adults feel more connected, whereas negative experiences increase the likelihood of them reporting loneliness.
“Social media is, seemingly, about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media being linked to loneliness,” said lead author Brian Primack.
According to Primack, perceived social isolation, which is a synonym for loneliness, is associated with poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Because social media is so pervasive, it is critically important that we understand why this is happening and how we can help people navigate social media without as many negative consequences.
As part of the study, Primack and his team surveyed 1,178 West Virginia University students aged 18 to 30 about their social media use, to what extent their experiences were positive or negative, and their level of perceived loneliness.
The authors studied these perceptions of social media interactions across whatever combination of platforms students were using.
For every 10 per cent increase in negative experiences on social media, the participants reported a 13 per cent increase in feelings of loneliness. However, for every 10 per cent increase in positive experiences on social media, the participants reported no statistically significant change in feelings of loneliness.
There is a tendency for people to give greater weight to negative experiences and traits compared with positive ones, and this may be particularly relevant when it comes to social media. So, 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 and potentially traumatic impression, researchers suggest.