“One is the Loneliest…” Well It Used To Be Anyway

Three Dog Night may have been right in 1968 when they sang: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one; it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” Today though, we might need to modify the lyrics to: “Twitter is the loneliest application that you’ll ever do. Snapchat’s just as bad as well; it’s the loneliest app since a Pinterest pin.” I know, the lyrics need work; BUT, a sense of social isolation is moving toward epidemic levels among young adults and a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests social media is a contributing culprit (read the review in Medical News Today by clicking here).

Primack and a team of researchers administered questionnaires to 1,787 young adults between the ages of 19- and 32-years-old. The questionnaire asked about frequency and time spent on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest among others. The results suggest:

  1. Those who used social media more than two hours a day were TWO TIMES more likely to feel socially isolated than those who used it less than half an hour a day.
  2. Those who visit social media platforms 58 times a week or more had THREE TIMES the risk of feeling socially isolated as those who visited 9 times a week or less.

Why would social media use be associated with greater social isolation? Maybe time spent on social media left less time for actual face-to-face interactions. Or, maybe the self-portrayal people post on social media represents only a façade, an unrealistic ideal that contributes to feelings of jealousy and withdrawal stemming from thoughts like “Everyone seems happy but me. I’m just no fun to be around.” Or, perhaps it could be that seeing friends having fun increases feelings of exclusion and, as a result, social isolation stemming from thoughts like “No one wants me around anyway.”

Whatever the reason, I don’t want my spouse and children chained to a sense of loneliness and social isolation as they message on Facebook, send out a tweet, or post a pic on Instagram. I don’t want their loneliness to increase with every pin they peruse on Pinterest and “snapchat” they have. I want them to feel socially connected…and apparently too much social media interferes with social connection. So, here’s the plan:

  1. Have family times with no technology. Family meals are one great place for family time (The Lost Art of Family Meals). Another great family time includes family game nights (Unplug for Family Fun). You can try any of the times mentioned in (Family Fun Night).
  2. Get involved in some community activities. Play sports. Join a club. Go to church. Enjoy a play. The more involved your family becomes in fun activities, the less likely they will desire to spend long periods of time on social media. After all, it’s hard to dribble a basketball or march in a parade while Snapchatting.
  3. Establish tech-free times in your home. You could choose to make one night a week teach free or an hour a day tech free. Whatever you choose, make sure to engage one another during that time. Talk, share stories, tell jokes, discuss current events, go for a walk…anything you find fun, interactive, and relationship building (Enjoy “Steak” Your Claim on Family Dinner as you think about tech-free times in your home).

There’s the plan—cut down on social media and pump up the social connection. I’m starting this week. Will you join me?

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