Negative experiences on social media may make you feel lonely, finds a study

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New Delhi | Published: January 24, 2019 6:44:38 PM

For every 10% increase in negative experiences on social media, the participants reported a 13% increase in feelings of loneliness. However, for every 10% increase in positive experiences on social media, the participants reported no statistically significant change in feelings of loneliness.

Twitter, Microsoft, YouTube and FacebookThe researchers studied these perceptions of social media interactions across whatever combination of platforms students were using.

Negative experiences on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter may make young adults feel lonely, according to a study. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the US build on their earlier study which indicated that more use of social media was associated with increased feelings of loneliness.

Brian Primack, lead author of the study told ANI that social media is, seemingly, about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media is linked to loneliness. Primack added that perceived social isolation, which is a synonym for loneliness, is associated with poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Because social media is so pervasive, it is critically important to understand why this is happening and how people can be helped to navigate social media without as many negative consequences.

The team surveyed 1,178 university students aged between 18 and 30 years about their social media use, to what extent their experiences were positive or negative, and their level of perceived loneliness. The researchers studied these perceptions of social media interactions across whatever combination of platforms students were using.

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For every 10% increase in negative experiences on social media, the participants reported a 13% increase in feelings of loneliness. However, for every 10% increase in positive experiences on social media, the participants reported no statistically significant change in feelings of loneliness.

According to Jaime Sidani from the University of Pittsburgh, it is not clear whether people who feel lonely are seeking out or attracting negative social media experiences, or if they are having negative social media experiences that are leading to isolation. Also, there is a tendency for people to give greater weight to negative experiences and traits compared with positive ones, and this may be particularly relevant when it comes to social media.

Hence the positive experiences on social media may be associated with fleeting positive reinforcement, while negative experiences, such as public social media arguments, may rapidly escalate and leave a lasting, potentially traumatic impression. It also may be that socially isolated person lean towards social media use that involves negative interactions, which is probably a mix of both.

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