C’mon…. admit it. How many friends on facebook do you actually know. And if you know them, how often do you communicate? For most people out there on social media networks, this is a personal question.
For lonely and socially inept people, the internet (and social media) is portrayed as a haven for where they can thrive and make new connections and contact when traditional methods of social contact has left them on the proverbial kerbside of the road. Apparently this is not so.
In fact, a report for the Australia Institute says lonely people may use social media to find social support, but they have fewer Facebook friends and count fewer of them as “real friends”. Quality, not quantity, of social connections is critical in determining loneliness, Australia Institute director and report author David Baker says.
He says social media shouldn’t be treated as a cure for loneliness, and online social contact may in fact mask real social disconnection. “Given the rapid increase in the use of social media and the government’s policy focus on ‘social inclusion’, there is a risk that social networking sites may be overpromoted, especially to younger people,” Australia Institute director and report author David Baker said.
You should also remember that social media is very unreliable. People who were not lonely reported greater quality in social networking connections, while more than 50 per cent of lonely people counted fewer than a third of their Facebook friends as real friends, the report says.
On a positive note, lonely social media users were proactively using social media to address their isolation. They reported an increase in contact with family and friends since the advent of the technology.
The research found adults living on their own or as single parents were more likely to experience loneliness, with men living on their own at twice the risk as women. Surprisingly, couples with children were lonelier than couples without children. More individualised lifestyles meant connections had become more flexible and temporary, the report said.
So, the moral of the story: Get out more. Turn off the computer. Make real-life friends and meet up in the real world. Then update your Facebook status while you’re sitting across from them.
The study used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey as well as an online survey of 1384 people between 2001 and 2009.