Misery loves company

Facebook is responsible for loneliness in young adults


Over the last decade, social media is a pretty big deal to young people, who are influenced more than other demographics by the current social demands. Being on the go and being able to keep in touch with the people in our lives plays a key role in our relationships.

But does social media contribute negatively to our mood changes and how we perceive ourselves and others?

That’s the question Alexandra Sifferlin of Time is trying to answer. In an August 15 article titled “Two-Faced Facebook”, she proposed that being on Facebook can affect how you behave.

Recently, a friend of mine remarked that seeing photos of her friends hanging out at the beach made her upset not to have been invited. When she ran into one of the friends a week later, she still showed signs of withdrawal and anger. Observing everything her friends were doing made her feel lonely and unwanted.

A recent post by Rowena Kang for Social Media Today looked at relationship trends and suggested that social media is contributing to the increase in divorces and breakups, particularly in common-law relationships. Reconnecting with people you used to know or connecting with those you want to get to know is easy today, she points out, but such connections can be damaging to other relationships.

Most of the students I spoke to said they went on Facebook “just for the sake of it”; though they might not start with the intention of spending time browsing, logging on just becomes a habit. Once they had logged in, however, they found themselves browsing through photos and finding some reason to stay on and “look at what other people are up to”. When faced with discoveries like not being invited to a party, or a friend writing an offensive status, most would log out in a bad mood.

Similarly, during my second year, I saw one of my friends update her work information on Facebook. I found myself going through her work history (stalker much?). When I logged out, I felt horrible about myself—I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything and didn’t even have a steady job, whereas everyone else was occupied with so many interesting things. Sifferlin cites Ethan Kross, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who mentions this exact phenomenon of “social comparisons”.

Though many of us enjoy logging in to Facebook and posting the occasional status, all of us have become upset at some point because we saw or read something we didn’t like. And many of us have let it negatively affect our moods, causing us to behave negatively towards others.

Not only is Facebook an accomplice in causing relationship turmoil, but it also alters how we view someof the 400+ “friends” on our profiles. The need to seem interesting 100% of the time doesn’t help us in our personal lives; instead, it gives us unrealistic goals and reminds us that we’re not as exciting as our Facebook updates, a narrow selection of the most exciting things that happen to us, suggest we are.

In fact, according to Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs, at some point we all do things that are acceptable (or not) in society to
“fit in” and be considered “part of the group”. As humans, we all have a need to be wanted and respected by others.
But seeing someone new date our ex or watching our friends make plans without us just makes us feel lonely.

This is not to say that Facebook doesn’t have its positives too. Sifferin talks about using social media “the right way”. Some therapists agree that simply watching friends on social media can lead to loneliness and “social comparison”. But when used to keep in contact with our peers, it can combat loneliness, as we join new communities, and reconnect with old friends.

But it’s hard to eliminate jealousy and peer competition on social media when we’re already struggling with it in day to day life.

I wonder what Mark Zuckerberg would say if he found out that his baby is actually creating barriers.

  • Siglint

    Great article, and it brings to light those drawbacks of social media.
    I like the word “social comparisons” that Ethan Kross used to explain those feelings of self-worth we often think about when we browse through facebook.
    I do think it’s an obvious explanation that most people know subconsciously, it’s something that lurks within your heart whenever you step foot into another persons life. A special human trait; social comparisons.

    Article does a nice job pointing out the negatives, now is there any insight on how to combat it? What do we do when we find ourselves faced with those thoughts and feelings when visiting someone’s profile? I feel the obvious response for a solution would be “don’t go on facebook”, but what else could someone in those shoes do?