Digital networking but still lonely
In the age of digital networking every smallest detail of everyday life is shared with countless friends, provided with likes or heart symbols and commented extensively. Social media should bring people all over the world closer together – but only in theory, because scientific studies paint a completely different picture. Not that of young people, who, thanks to the endless possibilities of social networks, maintain a lively exchange with like-minded people. Research has shown that people who often use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Co have a much higher risk of social isolation. The potential consequences of loneliness in the age of digitization range from health impairments to mental disorders.
Together we socialize through social media
The question of whether social media has a positive or negative impact on the lives of young people today has been the subject of scientific debate for many years. The result of a study carried out by US researchers speaks a clear language. The research concluded that those who spend at least two hours a day on social networks are at risk of developing feelings of loneliness. Compared to people who use social networks for less than half an hour a day, they are twice as likely to suffer from social isolation in the long term. Given the large “collection” of friends that involves the constant use of such platforms,
Social networks, whether Facebook, Snapchat, Youtube or Twitter are actually aimed at facilitating the contact between like-minded people through the location independence. Used by billions of people around the world, these platforms are designed to help people share the lives of their fellow human beings in an uncomplicated manner. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that this is just about quantity, and certainly not about the quality of relationships.
If every interpersonal bond is primarily based on encountering each other in a noncommittal way in the virtual world, solitude is a logical consequence. Virtual friendships on online platforms are based primarily on text messages, posts, and comments on photos that users publish about themselves and their everyday lives. Inevitably, this will in the long term lead to a gradual departure from the real world, in which relationships build on common undertakings and experiences as well as bodily closeness of any kind – simply put, present.
People who spend much of their free time in social networks are gradually losing this important interpersonal aspect. This happens without those affected notice, because social media suggest the ultimate social proximity through the almost voyeuristic involvement in the daily lives of others. The feeling of loneliness develops gradually, while the ability to open up to friends in real life gets more and more lost.
Idealization without foundation
Social media and online platforms offer endless possibilities to stage your own ego . From every last detail, be it breakfast coffee, the new hairstyle or the glamorous party, a picture is taken and published for hundreds of friends. The fact that most posts are minor banalities that are barely worth showing or commenting on is irrelevant. They attract more or less attention, are shared and receive their countless likes. The people behind it will inevitably be given the illusion of being particularly interesting or desirable.
However, the exact opposite is the case with the endless flood of images and comments bombarding users on a daily basis. Nothing is significant, superficiality triumphs, there is no time for real interpersonal encounters , given the tempting freedom of virtual self-staging.
The possibility of sharing every detail of one’s own life with other “largely unknown” friends has another problem in it. Both the self-staging and the voyeuristic interest in others become an addiction for many users. This is accompanied by an idealization of one’s own ego and other persons, which has nothing in common with reality and yet has a high emotional significance in the lives of those affected. This makes them vulnerable and manipulatable, stirs up negative emotions such as envy and resentment and creates a distorted image of themselves.
When one’s own ego is forced to become more and more important, mental disorders such as narcissism or depression are logical consequences. Even all the banalities of everyday life are presented by their best, that is photogenic side, because hardly anyone has the courage to portray his life on social networks as it actually is. Self-indulgence, narcissism and vanity on the one hand, on the other hand, is a feeling of being unable to keep up with all the beauty and perfection in others’ lives. The loneliness is further intensified by the fact that the normal, seemingly negative events of one’s everyday life’s tricks compared to the staged vacation and styling photos of the “friends” really matter.
The absence of real ties
Adding to the loneliness is the unpleasant feeling that may not be good enough to be trendy enough or interesting enough – which is suggested by the print media and advertising anyway. Everyone has the ability to adapt to such social changes without losing the relationship to their own selves and the focus on the finer things in life – provided that genuine and solid friendships and partnerships provide support in periods of disorientation.
Not only the excessive use of social networks, but also digitization in general, gradually diminishes the sense of real cohesion. E-mails, short messages and non-commentary photos have replaced in the digital age the personal conversation with all its facets of verbal and body language expressiveness. As a result, many young people today find it difficult to consciously cultivate friendships in the real world to prevent isolation by the absence of the other’s presence. Instead, the teens are already vulnerable and self-doubt anywaytortured, in the social media also still overloaded with photos that always show the others in joint ventures and parties to which one was not invited. Loneliness is therefore not only a consequence of the fact that real interpersonal communication is left behind, but also of this unpleasant feeling of being always excluded.
Countless scientific studies have long since proven that loneliness makes people ill in the long term. The results of such research show that people who are fundamentally alienated or lonely experience infectious diseases much more severely, have a weaker immune system, are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and more often develop mental disorders. At the same time, every person who feels excluded or lonely becomes more and more suspicious of others. With the loneliness the ability and the need to build new friendships gradually disappear.
These findings are worrying for all the people who spend a significant amount of their free time in social networks. Functioning social relationships in real life make a significant contribution to overall health. It therefore pays off to put away your smartphone and tablet more often to consciously devote yourself to those people who are sitting opposite.
Anyone who admits that the unlimited contact options of online platforms actually draw boundaries in social life, can recognize and ignore one or the other idealized image of aesthetically elaborate trivialities as such with a critical approach. This paves the way for a reflected use of social media to actually engage in an inspirational exchange of ideas with like-minded people – and then tell them to real friends over a cup of coffee or during a longer phone call.