Dr. John Cacioppo is a fascinating guy. He’s a professor in neuroscience at the University of Chicago and an expert in the ‘study of loneliness.’
I’ve been looking at his videos on YouTube and found a fascinating talk where he explains the impact of social media on loneliness. Social media = Facebook, MySpace, Friendster and so on. Because most of the people reading this are on Facebook, let’s use Facebook as an example.
In his interview where he was being asked: “What’s the impact on Facebook on loneliness?”, Cacioppo said this:
“You can end up online so much, that you end up sacrificing face-to-face contact. Having 4000 friends on Facebook might make you feel that you have lots of friends, but you have no face-to-face contact. In that case, loneliness INCREASES.
Another interesting thing he said was:
“…lonely individuals tend to use social networking sites in a way that puts distance between themselves and others.”
Compare that to non-lonely people, who according to Dr. Cacioppo tend to use social networks in a way that REDUCES the distance between themselves and others. For example:
- Young adults use social networking to find where their friends are so they can connect
- They go to college in another town and they’re keeping in touch via Facebook with their high school buddies so when they go back in town they can pick up right where they left off
How to reduce loneliness
If you’re feeling lonely and use social networks in a way that increases your loneliness, then there are several things you can do, according to Dr. Cacioppo.
- Stop using Facebook and other social networks in a destructive way (obviously)
- Start doing activities like volunteering. By volunteering you’ll see many positive things about people. Many of the people you volunteer to help will be grateful for (whatever the activity is) you’re doing and you’ll also meet friends and form healthy relationships.