MONDAY, March 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Young people who spend a lot of time on social media — websites designed to bring people together — seem to be more isolated, new research suggests.
Ironically, the researchers found that the heaviest users of social media had about twice the odds of feeling socially isolated compared to their less “web-connected” friends.
The findings “remind us that social media is not a panacea for people who feel socially isolated,” said study lead author Dr. Brian Primack. He’s director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health.
Primack said past research has suggested that people who use social media the most are especially isolated. But those studies have been small, he noted.
The new study is the first analysis of social media use and so-called social isolation in a large group of people from across the United States, according to Primack.
But, at least one social media expert said the study leaves too many questions unanswered to offer people any practical advice.
The study included nearly 1,800 people aged 19 to 32. The participants completed a 20-minute online questionnaire in 2014. Half were female and 58 percent were white. More than one-third made at least $75,000 a year. The participants, who’d taken part in research before, received $15 each for the survey.
Researchers asked questions about how isolated the participants felt and how often they used Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Reddit.
Those who used the services more often — either in terms of the number of times they used them or in total amount of time spent on them — were more likely to report feeling isolated from other people, the investigators found.
“Compared with those in the lowest quarter for frequently checking social media, people in the top quarter were about three times as likely to have increased social isolation,” Primack said. Those who checked the least visited social media sites less than nine times a week. Those who checked the most visited social media sites 58 or more times a week, the study authors said.