No doubt social media is impacting our lives in innumerable ways. Its effects on an individual’s career prospects are well-established. And its impact on our social relationships is always evolving.
While there are a few situations where this channel of social interaction allows us to work on our mental health, masses have seen a decline in mental health with an increased attachment to social media.
The study under consideration makes part of a series of similar studies that find the relationship between social media and the mental health of netizens. It studies the impact of social media use disorder on the perceived loneliness of affected people.
Social media use disorder is a mental health disorder that defines obsession over the internet and its interactions. Those who struggle with this disorder spend most of their time on the internet so much so their other life areas are disturbed. The impact of this disorder on the life quality of sufferers is so strong that American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recommended including it in the third section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5).
The second component of this research is loneliness. Loneliness is one’s perception of discrepancies in one’s social life. Till now, studies have indicated two different sides of this social media-induced loneliness. First, excess use of social media deprives us of opportunities to meet our social circle in real life. Secondly, some studies claim that social media social circles are better off as they create more intense feelings of friendship and belongingness than an offline social circle. In short, according to the second school of thought, social media usage reduces loneliness.
Lara Youssef and her colleagues conducted this study to understand the link between social media use disorder and loneliness.
Scholars surveyed 456 subjects and short-listed them to 109 participants based on their availability and mental soundness. These participants were later asked about subjects’ socio-demographic status, social media use disorder, emotional intelligence, depression and anxiety levels, and perceived loneliness.
In the end, the scholars ran the numbers through SPSS version 25 to conclude the study.
The study found that loneliness was more remarkable among females than in males. Individuals lying at lower socioeconomic status were most affected among all social classes. Education also played a role as loneliness was most profound among individuals with a secondary level of education.
The study also showed that loneliness had a direct relationship with social media use disorder. However, the intensity of this relationship was milder in front of the relationship between alexithymia (inability to understand one’s emotions) and loneliness. Similarly, the relationship between depression (and stress and anxiety) and perceived loneliness was stronger than that of the focus of this study.
The study found a positive relationship between social media use disorder and loneliness. From this result it concludes that the relationship could go either way; i.e., social media use disorder could foster loneliness as well as perceived loneliness could prompt individuals to spend more time on social media to gain social backing and acceptance.
Excessive use of social media use is related to perceptions of one’s loneliness. However, one must evaluate if social media is the real cause or it’s a phenomenon arising out of several stressors such as depression, lack of emotional understanding, and stress levels.
Youssef, L., Hallit, R., Kheir, N., Obeid, S., & Hallit, S. (2020). Social media use disorder and loneliness: any association between the two? Results of a cross-sectional study among Lebanese adults. BMC Psychology, 8(1). doi: 10.1186/s40359-020-00421-5