Does Social Media Intensify Loneliness and Mental Health Problems?

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

crabs1 - bandw ish

People are more lonely today than ever before. We have all heard this, but how is that even possible? We can send a message to someone on the other side of the planet and receive an immediate response. We electronically befriend and befollow (???) those whom we have not seen in decades. Our connections include people from high school and college, our jobs and our neighborhoods, a long wait at the grocery store checkout – basically anyone we know. Or kinda know.

Our having these connections does not mean that we receive honest insight into all of the significant parts of their days. Based on what we see online, most people are in romantic relationships, have children who excel at school, and take many exotic vacations with pedicured feet.

Those shiny updates may be legitimate, but they are by no means the full story.

We keep quiet about our most significant hurts. The dark realities are tough to face, and we often feel deeply embarrassed by them. The last thing we want to do is put them on public display.

That guarded approach is true for 99% of the public social media profiles you see. You may see an odd rough day post here and there, but the serious issues won’t make the cut. And that is a huge problem.

Because we are bombarded with endless fluff, we don’t see the dirt and devastation. We aren’t aware of the physical or emotional abuse that is rife around us. We don’t realize that so many incredible children are struggling desperately just to advance to the next grade. We have no clue that innumerable people we know are drowning in their feelings of low self-worth an hopelessness. And we don’t know that the perpetually cheerful neighbor a few doors down is battling suicidal thoughts behind the smiles.

More often that not, having a social media connection is akin to maintaining a surface acquaintance. That’s okay, but you need real interactions, too. Actual conversations. Shared meals. Genuine human contact.

People aren’t lonely because they don’t know anyone else. They are lonely because they don’t share themselves deeply nor do they directly support others in that capacity. We don’t thrive if we stay in endless hiding. As always, you don’t need to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. God gave us politicians to fill that role, so consider that part taken. But you can take a quick break from technology so you can have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve YouTube at mealtime. You can get together with a true friend for coffee and trade emotional war stories. You can make a hands-free call in the car to catch up with a family member on the way home from work. You can turn off the mindless games and read a book that will boost your brain instead.

Our minds are rebelling against us because they are bored from a lack of stimulation, but we are also missing out on key requirement of our design. We have an inherent need for human interaction, and no amount of tech can replace that. The more we continue to exclude direct contact with other people, the more we isolate ourselves, and our societal mental health deterioration is a serious reflection of this problem.

Get out of your shell, and take a little time every day to step away from the tech. If you aren’t there yet, at least use it to make a call to a person who matters in your life. If calling isn’t your thing, write something worth reading. Something memorable. Something real. Just make sure that you are doing the thinking – not your tech.

Social media has its benefits, but never forget that the real story is behind the scenes. You have to get past the veil in order to see the truth of others, and you have to let people in so you won’t be alone in yours.

If you don’t feel like you can speak candidly with anyone in your personal life, consider taking up blogging and writing with a sincere voice. The community of friends I have met here is unlike any other, and they have taught me to be braver, more open, and more real than I ever imagined I could be.

Much love to you always.  Jo

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KDKH
    Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:19:36

    I’m finishing a camping trip today with no tech— no cell reception, no internet, and no TV. I enjoyed the company of my husband and youngest child and a few good books. We hiked, we talked, we hung out with our dogs. Yesterday we began our trip home and cell reception and internet were back. After a day hike, my husband and I played cards last night, resisting the urge to return to our tech. The youngest was thrilled to be back in touch with her friends. Sigh. It has been a good reset for me, and I think I’m going to re-think how I spend some of my free-time at home. TV, games, and YouTube are not big draws for me, but the internet is….

    Reply

    • Jo Price
      Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:43:30

      A few years ago, we grounded our kids from tech seconds before going on a long road trip with our kids. I wanted to take the words back the instant they escaped my mouth but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to back down so we made them lock everything up at home before we left. I was terrified that we might not make it through the 20+ hours drive (each way) and the full week in between. Best. Trip. Ever. It was awesome. We talked to each other. My kids played together. They got dirty, threw snowballs, went on walks, laughed, and nobody died from tech withdrawal. It was a life-changing moment for our family. My husband and I still take our phones, I almost always lug along a work laptop just in case something big comes up, and we bring a few movies with us. That’s it. It was the best over the top mom move I accidentally pulled. I absolutely adore that y’all took a trip like that. Isn’t it strangely wonderful to reconnect with your own family and with nature? We realize that we were missing something that we were depriving from ourselves. I hope that you have pics on your blog. The trip sounds spectacular!

      Reply

      • KDKH
        Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:50:19

        The trip has been very restorative. I’m procrastinating right now—. It quite ready to pack up and leave our last stop. The summer we literally locked all the TVs in the house was a game changer for us, too. The kids were too young for cell phones and spending their first summer at home rather than day care while my husband and I worked. We did not want them vegetating in front of the TV. They acted like we were killing them! But they read books and learned how to play games together. They learned not to depend on TV a habit they took with them into adulthood. My husband and I don’t watch much either, so there is room in our lives for other things!

      • Jo Price
        Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:55:25

        I think that that is brilliant and wonderful beyond words. ❤️🤗❤️

  2. Kendra Lee
    Jul 03, 2018 @ 14:18:56

    For me, the internet has been a way to connect with people who share some of my life experiences–especially the ones the people I love in real life don’t share with me. My writing is pretty straightforward and honest, so that’s what I’ve gravitated toward in the bloggers I read and admire. But absolutely, nothing compares to hugging my best friend and talking with her or getting on the phone with my sister to share the joy & triumphs of motherhood. I think there’s room for both internet connection & IRL connection, but I completely agree that both are necessary. It can be harder to be vulnerable & authentic in person–but it’s so worth it.

    Reply

    • Jo Price
      Jul 03, 2018 @ 18:29:22

      You are so right KL! And I agree that there is absolutely room for both. It’s all about the balance and how much of our time is alotted to each side of the equation. 😊

      Reply

  3. overthehillontheyellowbrickroad
    Jul 03, 2018 @ 16:44:15

    I totally agree. There’s something weird and unexplored about these virtual relationships. It’s so new, and it will never replace sitting in a coffee shop with a friend for hours.

    Reply

    • Jo Price
      Jul 03, 2018 @ 18:27:57

      I think that you hit the nail on the head. The time element is a huge component of the disconnect. A sentence here and there doesn’t connect you the way an emotional conversation does. Maybe that’s why blogging seems to be more real (at least to me). We put so much more of ourselves out there. We talk about the serious stuff and the stuff we don’t normally share. Dunno. But I am thankful for you. I am certain of that. ❤️😉

      Reply

  4. sussy123
    Jul 03, 2018 @ 18:37:46

    This post is soooo realllll

    Reply

  5. Inside The Rainbow
    Jul 11, 2018 @ 09:14:09

    The internet gives me a chance to communicate and socialise. Having said that, I have to take regular breaks because it becomes overwhelming. Then again, the same can be said of real friendships. It’s the autism, innit. X

    Reply

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