The new phenomenon of social media is all around us, all the time in this generation. We are constantly connected to the internet through laptops, tablets, and phones. The internet now holds a bounty of various site and apps created to connect us to our peers. There is very rarely hours that go by without checking into our various networks. We are constantly interacting with other people. So along with this constant connection we should also eliminate the feeling of loneliness… in theory. In practice, this does not happen.
In a way, our use of technology can even do the opposite and make people lonelier. Studies have shown that “people feel more alone that ever” (WomensMedia) due to technology. One explanation for this feeling is that with the constant ability to be in contact with peers, any lull in this interaction is a failure. In the past, a couple of hours alone, without any peer interaction was normal and expected, now it leads to the feeling of being ignored. But it also goes far beyond the feeling of being ignored.
Social media is all about numbers; how many friends do you have? How many likes did you get? Do you have a good follower to following ratio? It takes human interactions and quantifies them, but this is not how loneliness works. Getting a certain amount of likes may make you proud or give you a sense of satisfaction, but it is not going to give the same feeling as interacting with others face to face.
Social media allows for you to pick and choose the person that is seen by other users. The pictures and comments are not only an expression of the user, but an expression of the user that they are choosing to be a part of their online persona. Media sites do not get a full view of who a person really is; instead they get a view of the parts of a person that they want others to see. Friendships built off of seeing only the parts of a person that they want to present are not real friendships. A real relationship includes the good and the bad, because it is the whole person.
Technology allows us to keep in touch at a distance. This distance is safe and preferred to the effort of actually maintaining friends and finding people that you trust. People choose this distant form of friendship to replace the real relationships and deep personal connections are lost. To have a real relationship with another person and get rid of that lonely feeling, there must be a sense of intimacy. This intimacy can only be built off of vulnerability. The same vulnerability that is avoided when interacting through social media.
Therefore, these relationships maintained through social media are left shallow and unfulfilling. Without shared trust and vulnerability, the feeling of loneliness will continue to grow. Social media itself is not making people lonely, but when people become under the illusion that social media can in some way replace face to face interactions with others, they very mistaken. This replacement of real relationships for easy virtual ones is where this generation has increased its tendency to be lonely.