Social media has become a big part of our lives and has lots of benefits, but a study at Brigham Young University-Idaho shows too much time on Facebook leads to increased loneliness
BYU-Idaho psychology professor, Rob Wright says he often saw students walking on campus looking down at their phones.
“They’re pulling out their smart phones and honestly are paying more attention to what’s going on on their phones than what’s around them, even to the point of bumping into someone,” Wright said.
It got him wondering.
“Are we so focused on technology, even when we’re walking around campus at the point of sacrificing something? Are we sacrificing social health? Are we sacrificing face to face interactions? And so I got thinking about social media and thought that we would do a survey and see what we could find out from the students and see if there was something going on.”
Wright enlisted help from his research methods class where his students had noticed the same thing.
“There are a lot of moments I walk down the hall and try to say hi to someone and they’re just looking at their phone of have their headphones in,” research assistant Rhett Mullins said. “We definitely isolate ourselves.”
Wright had his students reach out to other students to take an online survey. 579 students responded to the survey questions.
“Questions about loneliness, about daily social media use, depressive symptoms and some other health related behaviors as well,” Wright said. “We basically found as we increase our use of social media, this causes us to be more lonely.”
The findings didn’t surprise licensed psychologist Jeff Elder who has seen this problem.
“The more time people spend on social media, actually the less time they’re being out and involved, engaged with their family and friends and loved ones and so the correlation leads to loneliness,” Elder said.
Elder says not only are they not engaged with others in person, the engagement they have on social media leaves them feeling inadequate.
“They consider their mundane life and compare it to others they see that are having wonderful meals and wonderful adventures across the world, they feel their day to day living is sub-par,” Elder said.
BYU-Idaho student Ashley Dean agrees.
“They all just post positive things so it’s easy to compare your life with there’s and think why isn’t my life that great,” Dean said.
BYU-Idaho student Abby Griffin see another problem. Young people often aren’t communicating.
“When they’re sitting together they’re just sitting on their phones,” Griffin said. “It’s like they’re not even there. They’re in their own little bubbles checking on different things,” Griffin said.
“We lack social skills. We lack how to communicate with people and how to have face to face interactions,” fellow student Ayala Nogueira said.
Elder says it’s fine to use social media, but be mindful of how much you’re using it, and if it gets to be excessive take action.
“Getting out, being around people and being more active in their lives I think does a lot of help. If you get a chance to see someone or look at a picture, you’re going to be with that person.”
SO WHAT’S THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE FROM THE RESULTS OF ROB WRIGHT’S RESEARCH?
“We should not be using social media to an extreme,” Wright said. “When we are so focused on the things going on around us, I think there’s a real danger there.”