We Are So Tech Connected But Lonelier Than Ever

George J. Ziogas

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According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center, approximately 96% of Americans currently own some type of mobile phone. Additionally, the United States Census Bureau reported that about 89% of American households owned at least one computer in 2016.

Over the last several years, Americans have developed almost unlimited access to the Internet, online communities, and social media platforms. Despite the limitless opportunities to communicate with others and build new relationships, the number of Americans reporting that they feel lonely is steadily increasing.

Humans & Technology: A Troubled Relationship

Dissecting the relationship between humans and technology requires going back almost 50 years to the creation of the first computer. When major technology tools were invented over the last several decades, the intended purposes were to record data and simplify processes usually done by hand.

As developers began creating programs, websites, and mobile devices that allowed for instant messaging, direct communication, and sharing of information, the social skills of humans slowly became stunted. Rather than making a phone call or communicating in person, communication methods became more technology-based.

When smartphones became more popular and a standard accessory for Americans, people were given 24/7 access to text messaging, email, social media, and the Internet, which only furthered rates of loneliness.

A New Type of Relationship

If we are given more access to communication tools, why do we feel lonelier than ever? Shouldn’t this mean we communicate more and have a greater number of relationships?

Most evidence suggests that social media and smartphones severely limit face-to-face interactions and constant access to communication tools makes it easier than ever to isolate yourself from your friends, family, and the rest of the world.

The American Psychological Association reveals that unlimited access to social media and other communication methods as well as the habit of transitioning real-life relationships to online-only relationships can cause feelings of loneliness, specifically in younger generations.

A Constant Comparison

While social media can be a great tool for sharing your life with your friends and family, scrolling through your news feeds can be overwhelming and even triggering. Of the many reasons you might feel lonely due to social media, comparing yourself to your social media sphere is perhaps the most dangerous.

When you compare yourself to others, it has the potential to affect your self-esteem and confidence. If you're constantly witnessing friends and family having fun, being adventurous, or beginning new relationships, it’s a natural response to feel as if you’re unsuccessful or missing out on something.

Loneliness may begin to set in when you think that what your friends and family post are accurate representations of their lives. It’s important to remember that most people only post about the major positive events and they too may be lonely or feel like they’re not interesting enough.

Preventing Loneliness

If you’re feeling lonely as a result of social media or strictly online-based relationships, research shows that limiting your social media and smartphone use has the ability to reduce your loneliness and even feelings of depression.

According to a Harvard Medical School health blog, capping your social media use at 30 minutes a day has the potential to improve your quality of life and decrease your feelings of loneliness.

Another way to address your loneliness as a result of technology is by strengthening your current relationships via face-to-face interactions. Not only will this address the issue of physical isolation, but it’ll also reduce the amount of time you spend on your smartphone or on social media building relationships.

Final Thoughts

Nearly every American has unlimited access to the Internet and social media in 2021, but feelings of loneliness still persist. Whether you’re guilty of maintaining your relationships strictly through your smartphone or comparing yourself to others on social media, you’re contributing to your own feelings of loneliness. The best thing you can do to counter these feelings of loneliness is to limit your use of technology and social media and focus on your real-life relationships.

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