Bioethics Blogs

Is Social Media Making Us Lonelier?

Initially, most of us thought that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media applications would help to bring people together. And, yes, in many instances that has been true. Such apps have made it possible—even simple—to catch up with former classmates living thousands of miles away, share a video of your baby’s first steps with relatives near and far, or strike up new acquaintances while discussing the stock market or last night’s ballgame. Yet, a new NIH-funded study suggests that social media may also have the power to make people feel left out and alone.

Based on a nationwide survey of more than 1,700 young adults, researchers found that individuals who were the heaviest users of social media were two to three times more likely to feel socially isolated than those who used little to no social media [1]. And that’s a concern to those of us in the medical field: previous research has linked social isolation to worsening physical and mental health, and even an increased risk of death [2,3]. In fact, some experts have gone so far as to label loneliness a major public health concern.

The new study, reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was led by Brian Primack and his colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh. They set out to look specifically at social media use and its possible association with feelings of social isolation in young adults.

To do so, they randomly surveyed 1,787 male and female young adults about their use of 11 popular social media applications.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.