According to the report, more than two hours of social media increases loneliness and doubles the chances of a person experiencing social isolation.
The report goes on to claim that exposure to idealized representations of other people’s lives may lead to feelings of envy.
While what people see on social media may not be necessarily the reason for people feeling sad, it might be a factor. It could heighten the emotions that the social media user is already feeling.
Social media increases loneliness: What the experts say
“We do not yet know which came first – the social media use or the perceived social isolation,” said Elizabeth Miller, co-author of the report and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburg.
Miller added that it’s possible that young adults who initially felt social isolation turned to social media. On the other hand, it could be that the young adults’ increased use of social media somehow led to feeling isolated from the real world and thus social media increases loneliness.
According to theories in the research, the more time a person spends online, the less time they have for real-world interactions.
Social media usage can also fan the growth of feelings of exclusion, such as seeing photos of friends enjoying a moment or event to which a person did not attend.
Professor Brian Primack from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that the study of social media use is important because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults.
Social media pulling us apart instead of together
According to Professor Primack, human beings are inherently social creatures, but modern life has the tendency to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together.
Primack added that while people may see social media as an opportunity to fill the social void, the study suggests that it may not be the solution that people need,
In the research, Primack and his team investigated the social media use patterns of 1,787 adults aged between 19 and 32 in the United States.
The participants were issued with questionnaires about the frequency and time spent on several social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and Linkedin, that were popular in 2014.
The scientists then factored in a wide range of social and demographic factors and found that people who used social media for more than two hours per day were twice as likely to feel socially isolated, compared to those who only used social media for under half an hour every day.
The study that focused on social media increases loneliness, found that participants who frequented social media platforms 58 times a week or more were three times more at risk of perceived social isolation, compared to those who reported nine times or less per week.
Previous research has claimed that loneliness and living alone are connected to an increased risk of mortality.
In a study that was published last year, researchers at the Brigham Young University, said that the subjective feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death by up to 26 %.
Social isolation and living alone were found to respectively increasing the risk of death by 29% and 32%.