About half of the U.S. population reports feeling lonely. It is a widespread phenomenon that some have referred to as a “loneliness epidemic.”
While platforms like Facebook and Instagram were designed to connect people and create a sense of community, some studies have shown social media use is linked to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
A 2017 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine surveyed young adults and reported that social media use may be associated with increased feelings of loneliness. The participants with the highest social media time usage were twice as likely to feel isolated, while those with the highest social media frequency usage were three times more likely to feel isolated.
Another study from the University of Pittsburgh found social media use was “significantly associated with increased depression” in a survey of young adults.
Finally, a study from the University of Pennsylvania reported that students who limited their use of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to 30 minutes a day “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group.” The study suggests that “limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”
It is possible that loneliness and social media usage may be a chicken-and-egg situation. Does social media cause loneliness or are lonely people more likely to overuse social media? Studies like the three mentioned here may shine a clarifying light on those questions.