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The more you're on Facebook, the more isolated you feel

Commentary: A new study says that spending more than two hours a day on social media is tied to perceived loneliness.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Togetherness?

Didier Marti, flickr Editorial/Getty Images

All those people who spend hours and hours on Facebook, they're miserable, aren't they?

Same for the ones who spend hours and hours on Twitter. Now I know most of those people are miserable. They're journalists.

Still, every time research on the relationship of social media and loneliness comes out, the result appears preordained.

The latest study on the subject comes from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

It shows that the more time young people spend on social media, the more likely they are to experience feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

The lead author of the study, Brian A. Primack, insists in the study's press release that there's a "mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults."

In this case, Primack and his colleague talked to 1,787 adults between the ages of 19 and 32. They used an accepted method of measuring social isolation.

Their conclusion? Even if you factor out social and demographic elements, those who used social media more than two hours a day were twice as likely to suffer from feelings of social isolation as those who spent only 30 minutes a day on social media.

"We are inherently social creatures," Primack said, "but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together. While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for."

Of course, the researchers couldn't know whether social isolation drives people toward social media or whether the dependence on social media increases isolation.

However, one of Primack's co-authors, Elizabeth Miller insisted: "Even if the social isolation came first, it did not seem to be alleviated by spending time online, even in purportedly social situations."

This research was performed in 2014. In the same year, research from Australia showed that the more women post on Facebook, the lonelier they are.

The problem is, though, that social media -- especially Facebook -- has become so much a part of the social fabric that it can allegedly swing elections and be held responsible for what people do and don't know.

It can surely affect feelings, just as easily as it can give them a worldwide megaphone.

Still, one study I'd like to see would measure what it's like when people are in social situations and still spend most of that time buried in Facebook on their phones.

Does just being with someone else make you feel less lonely? Or is the true test of feeling less lonely that you don't want to reach for your gadget to check everyone's status update?

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