For young adults, social media may not be so social after all.
Among people in that age group, heavy use of platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram was associated with feelings of social isolation, a study finds.
The results surprised study co-author Brian Primack. “It’s social media, so aren’t people going to be socially connected?” he says. He’s director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. And while his team’s previous research connecting social media use and depression in young adults wasn’t terribly surprising, these new results seemed counterintuitive.
While face-to-face social connectedness is strongly associated with well-being, it’s not clear what happens when those interactions happen virtually. To investigate, Primack and his colleagues surveyed 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 to 32 and asked them about their usage of 11 social media platforms outside of work. The survey also gauged social isolation by asking participants questions such as how often they felt left out. (As will happen in this type of survey, people may have lowballed their estimates of media use.)