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Is social media addiction making us even more lonely?

Focus more on real life relationships instead of social media friendships. ©Shutterstock

Recent research says that staying glued to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter does not keep us 'connected' or happy. These social media platforms alienate us from our real world making us lonely. We suggest ways to cope with loneliness in healthy ways.

Written by Saswati Sarkar |Updated : January 25, 2019 7:36 PM IST

Social media was designed to bring people closer, but it is becoming a path to loneliness, especially among young adults. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, negative experiences on social media can increase the chances of you feeling lonely whereas, positive experience on these platforms do not make you feel more connected. The author of the study mentioned that loneliness is associated with poor health outcomes like cardiovascular disease, depression and high blood pressure.


The connection between social media and loneliness isn't linear. A myriad of factors are at play behind this seemingly confusing association.

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Alienation from the 'present' and the 'real'

The accessibility that social media gives us to a huge pool of people disconnects us from the world around us. A study done at the University of British Columbia found that even little distractions from a buzzing phone can take us away from our present moment. "When social media is distracting us from the three crucial things of life--work, interacting with our family and friends, and having meals together--it's an indication that we are crossing the boundary," says Dr. Bhavna Barmi, Delhi-based senior child and clinical psychologist. A simple text or notification can divert your attention from the task at hand and the people around. Also, the constant urge to check social media platforms is alienating us from the real world. "People with poor social skills, social anxiety or low self-esteem hide behind the virtual world of social media which further increases their social isolation in real life," says Dr. Barmi.

Low self-worth

Every individual has a self-perception and we want to be always better than others. In a bid to stay ahead of others we start comparing us with almost unknown people who project a very happy and successful life on their social media platforms. "This comparison hits our self-esteem, which, in turn, makes us lonely and unhappy," says Dr. Barmi. In a study by British Psychological Society, it was found that participants who admitted going out their way to seek validation and appreciation on Twitter and Facebook, were more likely to suffer from low self-esteem. Their focus on creating a so-called perfect social media profile is disconnecting them from their own reality while their altered reality is making others feel envious and low.

The FOMO syndrome

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a New-age phenomenon that is seen particularly among teenagers and young adults. "They want to avoid the feeling that they are unaware of what is currently happening around them. This is dragging them to the social media all the more. So they feel reluctant to be there in the real-life situations and meet real life people," says Dr. Barmi.


It has been observed through various polls that the feeling of loneliness intensifies during the holidays, occasions and celebrations. It not only affects us psychologically, social alienation has several health consequences as well. Various researches have noted that the areas of the brain which deal with social exclusion are the ones responsible for processing physical pain also. Here are some effective ways to help you drive away loneliness.

Indulge in a constructive real-life schedule

[caption id="attachment_643217" align="alignnone" width="655"] If you love reading then books can be your best buddies when you feel lonely. Shutterstock[/caption]

"You must indulge in activities that you enjoy, things that improve your self-esteem. "It could be anything like physical exercise, meditation or reading things that interest you. You can start your day by interacting with your family or plan a meal with them daily," says Dr. Barmi.

Bank on real-time relationships

[caption id="attachment_643224" align="alignnone" width="655"] Reconnecting with your old friends will help you alleviate the feeling of alienation. Shutterstock[/caption]

"Getting in touch with people who share same interests or reconnecting with your old friends who were meaningful to you, joining social groups like gardening, book, or sports clubs will go a long way in driving away that feeling of loneliness," marks Dr. Barmi. If you need to share your feelings rely on a friend or family member you trust. In extreme cases, seek professional help.

Don't blame yourself for loneliness

Sometimes we end up thinking that our own flaws or limitations are responsible for our loneliness. This feeling generally develops from our childhood. Identify these emotions and work on them. Figure out what makes you think that you are flawed and then analyse your perceived (and sometimes imposed also!) limitations. Write down your chain of thoughts for clarity and you will end up realising that it's not you who is supposed to be blamed for your loneliness. Also, while doing self introspection, don't ask yourself, "Why I am feeling lonely?" Instead ask, "What should I learn from this?" This way, you will be able to spot the areas where you can work on.

Divert your attention towards the needs of others

This can prove to be a good distraction tactic. While helping others you will not be consumed in the melancholy of your own loneliness. Also, the ability to cater to the needs of others will boost your self-worth while sending a positive vibe to all who come in contact with you. make this winning choice in life and you will see the results soon.

Don't look for instant relief

[caption id="attachment_643220" align="alignnone" width="655"] Impulsive shopping is not the solution to loneliness. Shutterstock[/caption]

When we feel lonely, we impulsively end up indulging in acts (shopping, binge eating, etc.) that only offer short-term relief. Sometimes we even regret these acts. Stop yourself from being impulsive and make conscious efforts to accept your loneliness.

Love your loneliness

[caption id="attachment_643226" align="alignnone" width="655"]Music Convert your loneliness into enjoyable alone-ness. Shutterstock[/caption]

Convert your loneliness into lone-ness' that you enjoy. Try to find ways that make you love the time you spend with the self. Also, sometimes the fear of loneliness stems from the situational necessity of letting go and our lack of faith in something new that is waiting for us. Have confidence in yourself, your time and possibilities, believe that this your opportunity to turn things around and muster the courage to let go. You never know, your courage and confidence may attract people who admire these qualities.

With inputs from Shriya Sinha

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