Social Media – The Isolation Debate

‘Social media’. The first word (social) of the ‘new-not-so-new’ phenomenon could make us think that spending hours and hours on this platform will make us social gods and goddesses. We will acquire new friends, laugh and drink virtual pina coladas, in virtual sun lounges, in virtual Puerto Rico. But is this really the case? Studies are finding that actually social media may be making us isolated and anti-social (Crist 2017). So now we’re being told that in actual fact, this new media is actually causing us to regress socially?

But what if you’re an elderly person without the mobility to socialise regularly, or you’re a migrant trying to keep contact with your loved ones in your home country. Can social media still then be isolating?

Considering these two differing sides, let’s look at each case in further detail.

 

The Case for Causing Social Isolation

The argument that social media is causing isolation is based on the idea of social anxiety, placing importance on peer opinions and comparing oneself to others. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations and those who rely on the approval of others are more vulnerable (Davey 2016). Imagine someone who is obsessed with approval by their peers and now has access to a platform which quantifies friendships, allows instant approval in the way of ‘likes’ and is available to check on 24/7. That’s exactly what social media does. If those with a pre existing condition of social anxiety feel they have ‘failed’ on social media they can become even more anxious resulting in higher feelings of loneliness and isolation. According to Davey 2016, this becomes a cyclical process. See image below:

 

New-Mind-Map

Social media and social anxiety. Created using bubbl.us

The question we need to ask though – does this mean that social media causes feelings of isolation, or are those with pre existing feelings of isolation more drawn and prone to overuse of social media? Studies are unsure, however, we can consider that if someone is already suffering from social anxiety they may be more easily attracted to social media as a way of obsessing over social interaction.

 

The Case for Causing Social Connectedness 

According to Waycott (2015) older people who live alone may feel socially isolated if they have decreased mobility or inability to socialise with peers face to face. According to a report by Sensis 2017 47% of people aged over 65 access social media sites. When this percentage is compared with the previous year we can see a growth (from 40% in 2016). We can see that for those with issues of maintaining friendship groups face-to-face social media is an attractive option to share photos, be involved with interest groups and maintain active communication. In fact, a new social media tool platform called Enmesh is now being tested with older adults as the target audience and with the intention if reducing isolation amongst the group.

Another important societal group who use social media to combat isolation is migrants. Imagine you are a migrant to a country, having left behind family and friends somewhere else in the world. Social media could provide you with an easy way of keeping in touch with your loved ones, keeping up to date with news and events in your previous home area and soothe feelings of loneliness. A study by Komito & Bates 2011 revealed that the Internet, including social media plays a very large role in connecting Polish and Filipino migrants in Ireland to their relationships at home.

I guess in the case for social media use in elderly and migrants one could argue that still, social media can become excessive and possibly result in vulnerable users becoming frustrated about their lack of ‘face to face’ interactions.

 

The Verdict

It is evident that social media in fact does act as an important tool in many circumstances, allowing people to connect with others, create social circles and as a convenient use of communication with family and friends afar. However, we can also see that when there is a tendency towards feeling of social anxiety and loneliness social media can become an issue. Although it is still unknown whether social media creates a feeling of loneliness or instead magnifies these feelings for those with a predisposition. The verdict then is to consider our social media use carefully, is it increasing our happiness when we use it? Are we connecting with others in a positive way? Or, are we feeding feelings of loneliness, comparing our lives with others and seeking approval in the way of likes?

Questions to consider further are whether social media is detrimental to different societal groups such as different age groups, different income levels and different levels of access and mobility to spend time interacting with others face to face.

 

References

Crist C, 2017, On the mind: your brain on social media, Paste, <https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/on-the-mind-your-brain-on-social-media.html>, viewed 27 July 2017.

Davey, GCL 2016, Social Media, loneliness and anxiety in young people, Psychology today<https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201612/social-media-loneliness-and-anxiety-in-young-people>, viewed 26 July 2017.

Waycott, J 2015, Social networking to empower older people, Pursuit by University of Melbourne, <https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/social-networking-to-empower-older-people>, viewed 27 July 2017.

Creative Commons

The JH Text Photography, ‘Week 29/52.2012’, (license 2.0)

 

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Social Media – The Isolation Debate

  1. Hey there – thanks for the blog post. An interesting read, and an important, ongoing argument! It’s really interesting to read the links to existing psychological models of anxiety, and then question social media’s relationship to existing vulnerabilities that people may have (rather than causing new ones). You’ve used a great header image to give a strong opening to your blog, and your infographic is a great example of creating media. As you probably know, if you intend to submit, you might need to create or use some additional visual media to reinforce your blog. I’d also check that you have the minimum number of scholarly sources for submission as well. Thanks for the interesting blog!

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment Jez, glad you enjoyed the post. I too find it fascinating to look at how the fairly new phenomenon of SM impacts our psychology and behaviour. Thanks for the tip on the media also, stay tuned for video content 😉 Many thanks again, Eva

      Like

  2. ‘The isolation debate’ clearly sets out your topic and is a great choice for your title. In the second paragraph, you effectively pose two thought-provoking questions where you introduce the opposing argument – that social media can connect people. In general, your discussion is well supported with academic research and effectively referenced.

    Just a couple of minor editing suggestions – the last sentence in your first paragraph is a statement, so I would remove the question mark. In your second-to-last paragraph in the 2nd sentence you use the word ‘tenancy’ instead of ‘tendency’.

    The excellent use of questions balanced with academic references/research made this a thought provoking read. I also admire your ability to facilitate a conversation on your topic considering both sides of the argument without becoming preachy or dogmatic. That’s a real skill, well done!

    Like

    1. Thank you for your comment and encouragement, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Many thanks on your editing suggestions also, very helpful 🙂

      Like

  3. Such an important area of study, and becoming increasingly so as more people globally join the growing array of social media sites. Thanks for your contribution to the topic.

    The question is a huge one and I think the approach you have pointed to, which is to look at the relative benefits of social media to different groups, using for a range of purposes enables us to identify the many positives but also the many challenges.

    I have been looking into social media and Indigenous youth where research shows that inclusion in online social networks can increase feelings of belonging and connection but also that, through online bullying, can increase the risk of social isolation, poor mental health, and suicide. Here is just one interesting blog I found on the topic. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/124182481/posts/3410. I also touched on it briefly in my Instrument of Change blog, however I was in that instance focused on the positive social change outcomes that social media can contribute to. I think your blog does well to show that this is, indeed, a double edged sword.

    Interestingly, as I read your blog post, the next one I am prompted to read is one titled “Quitting Facebook will improve your mental health” 🙂

    The other group you mention, which is of interest to me and I think I’ll explore in a future post, is the older generation and how being connected to family and friends can help to reduce feelings of isolation. Further to this, one study (https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/how-social-media-can-benefit-seniors-041713.html) has shown that older people who regularly use social media performed 25% better on memory tests than those that don’t.

    For future blogs, it’d be great to see greater inclusion of other media to support your points.

    Well done Eva

    Like

  4. Such an important area of study, and becoming increasingly so as more people globally join the growing array of social media sites. Thanks for your contribution to the topic.

    The question is a huge one and I think the approach you have pointed to, which is to look at the relative benefits of social media to different groups, using for a range of purposes enables us to identify the many positives but also the many challenges.

    I have been looking into social media and Indigenous youth where research shows that inclusion in online social networks can increase feelings of belonging and connection but also that, through online bullying, can increase the risk of social isolation, poor mental health, and suicide. Here is just one interesting blog I found on the topic. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/124182481/posts/3410. I also touched on it briefly in my Instrument of Change blog, however I was in that instance focused on the positive social change outcomes that social media can contribute to. I think your blog does well to show that this is, indeed, a double-edged sword.

    Interestingly as I am reading your post, the next one I am prompted to read is “Quitting Facebook will improve your mental health” 

    The other group you mention, which is of interest to me and I think I’ll explore in a future post, is the older generation and how being connected to family and friends can help to reduce feelings of isolation. Further to this, one study (https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/how-social-media-can-benefit-seniors-041713.html) has shown that older people who regularly use social media performed 25% better on memory tests than those that don’t.

    For future blogs, it’d be great to see greater inclusion of other media to support your points.

    Well done Eva

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment and interesting links. It’s fascinating to see the psychological effects of SM on different groups and as SM is such a new technology I see that findings are extremely vast and often in opposition with each other! Good tip on including more media, time to channel the creativity! Many thanks again, Eva

      Like

  5. Hi Eva,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on an important topic. I loved your header image, so apt for the topic, and it was great to see information presented in a visual way.

    Looking at where this piece could be tightened up, I suggest checking on the finer details of referencing via the Deakin website. I think pages numbers are required in most cases, and there is an in-text citation for Komito and Bates (2011) but the detailed reference appears to be missing from the reference list.

    Good work on presenting both sides of the debate. This piece of writing made me think about aspects of isolation – online and off – that I hadn’t considered.

    Regards,

    AJ.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s