This century is characterized by the emergence of the greatest technologies that have become available to the average citizen. For example, nowadays, it is quite difficult to meet a person without a smartphone, in which their entire personal and professional life is documented. When something unusual or terrifying happens, most humans immediately take their mobile phone, not to call the police, but to record this event on camera and become popular on social networks. People, especially young people, can no longer imagine their life without social networks because they allow them to communicate, learn something new, earn money and popularity, and make online purchases. Younger generations check notifications extremely often without even realizing that they had already touched their phone a minute ago. Paradoxically, social media is not that social anymore, and those people who are addicted to their smartphones become less active in real life. Overall, the purpose of this paper is to prove that there is a strong correlation between the use of social networks and the youth’s level of loneliness. Though some may disagree, social networks indeed have many negative effects on the sociability of young people.
Overall, it is possible to say that smartphones and social media have both positive and adverse impacts on their users. Nowadays, due to the fast pace of life, it is quite difficult not to use social networks because people lack spare time, and various applications allow them not to lose contact with their family and friends. Nevertheless, this very possibility of staying in touch with other persons without actually meeting them plays a significant role in the youth’s increased loneliness and reduced desire to socialize (Whaite et al. 46). Like any medication, overuse of which can aggravate someone’s condition, social media used too often makes a person less sociable.
The Primary Purpose of Social Networks Is Altered
It is evident that the primary purpose of creating social networks was not negative but rather promising. Initially, social media was aimed at allowing individuals with similar interests to find each other, share necessary information, communicate, and increase each other’s engagement. Additionally, social applications made it much easier for persons from different countries or cities to keep in touch and share some news (Vaidhyanathan 9). After using social media became available for everyone, people no longer had to pay for phone calls or write letters and wait for them to be delivered.
Further, when the number of users increased, many of them started using social networks in a variety of ways. Nowadays, almost all applications, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok, are used to share different types of content in order to go viral and get comments, likes, and views (Brown). According to Vaidhyanathan, it is much rarer now that the youth see social media as a simple way to communicate (15). Instead, they perceive these applications as platforms for a rather strange exchange of information. The initial purpose of social networks is altered and now plays a more negative role.
Every day, a vast number of teenagers and young adults stay at home and scroll through Instagram or TikTok to watch mostly funny videos and photos of their friends or strangers. Therefore, instead of using these or other applications for communication, they share endless posts and stories that often do not carry a special semantic load (Wilson). At the same time, after spending one’s energy on perceiving invaluable information online, young persons have no desire to communicate in real life and tend to isolate themselves (Gonchar; Phoon 2). Consequently, social networks are rarely used for communication, and their primary goal to connect people is failed.
In order to make strong statements and arguments, it is essential to provide relevant statistics that would prove that modern teenagers and young adults are addicted to social networks, and this addition makes them lonelier. To begin with, it is possible to study the increase in the number of media users worldwide. According to Brown, this number has changed from 0.97 billion in 2010 to 3.09 billion in 2021. Considering the fact that the current population in the world reaches 7.9 billion (“Current World Population”), it is possible to do simple math calculations. While approximately 1 billion people are over sixty years old (Ang), and about 678 million are children under five (“Number of Children”), there are about 6.2 billion potential social media users, half of whom are ones. In 2010, the overall population was 6.922 billion people (“Current World Population”), and this data is surprising. Now, it is fair to say that there was an extreme rise in the number of social networks users.
Further, it is possible to provide additional data that will allow gaining an understanding of the issue under study. As noticed by Saiidi, out of the research’s 3000 participants, seventy-six percent of women check their social networks notifications at least ten times while spending time with their family or friends. As for men, this number is reduced to fifty-four percent (Saiidi). Further, in the same article, it is stated that half of the millennials experience anxiety when not checking their smartphones, and almost ninety percent of the representatives of this generation get distracted from real-life conversations (Saiidi). Overall, statistics show that smartphones and social media are a significant part of most people’s lives, and any attempt to reduce the use of networks and applications leads to stress, fear, and anxiety. When scientists in the U.S. decided to use a loneliness scale, it appeared that Gen Z, the youngest generation, scored a 48.3, and it was the highest number (Manning-Schaffel). It is surprising that people who have been born since 1996 and are now in their prime feel lonelier than the elderly who have lost many loved ones and tend to isolate themselves.
Symptoms of Being Addicted to Social Networks
There is nothing negative or severe in using social networks several times per day in order to message one’s friends or relatives or help colleagues solve business issues. However, as noticed by Amatenstein, if these are not the only reasons a person checks their smartphone, it is possible that they have developed or are likely to develop an addiction. Probably, everyone has noticed that there are persons who grab their mobile phones every minute for no reason, post hundreds of meaningless Instagram stories, or cannot fall asleep without scrolling through TikTok for at least an hour. All these signs mentioned above are the symptoms of being addicted to social media, and precisely this addition leads to feelings of loneliness, self-isolation, and decreased sociableness.
The following symptoms are also severe causes for concern and interventions. If a teenager experiences severe panic at the thought that their social network account will be deleted, he has an addiction. If one feels extremely uncomfortable and even disabled when their smartphone runs out of battery, they are addicted (Amatenstein). According to Trinko, if two friends feel anxious, awkward, and strange when they meet and cannot find any topic for discussion while also chatting on the Internet every day, they have an addiction to social networks. These are some symptoms that should be considered when reducing one’s dependence on social media.
Negative Consequences of Continuous Use of Social Networks
As mentioned above, it is quite disturbing that social media can have adverse effects on users who cannot limit their screen time. These negative consequences may be divided into several groups, and each of them is connected with loneliness. In other words, social network users who experience any of the following symptoms are likely to feel lonely, isolated, and unable to communicate with people in real life.
Escaping from Reality
Thanks to the uniqueness of features provided by technologies, it is now possible to spend hours online. This possibility makes many young people use social media mainly as a substitute for their real communications and the real world itself (Amatenstein). If these people are trying to part themselves from the outside world, it is evident that they already have some problems, and social media contributes to them. According to Amatenstein, while thinking that networks connect one with the people in the real world, social media works the opposite way and disconnects this person, making them lonelier and more alienated. This is why it is dangerous to use social networks as a substitute for face-to-face interactions.
Reduced Self-Esteem and Altered Self-Perception
Further, it is vital to discuss how social applications may alter one’s self-perception. Amatenstein believes that “frequently viewing curated snapshots of other people’s lives might leave social media users feeling as if everyone else has a better life, is smarter, funnier, more interesting, has more friends, etc.” It is rather challenging not to consider this idea true, especially if it come to one’s mind several times each day. Therefore, social media users begin to devalue themselves and their achievements, think of their lives as unsuccessful, fall into the trap of constant comparisons, and always consider themselves worse (Whaite et al. 48). The self-esteem of such a person becomes lower, and the world around them begins to be full of potential triggers. Their life may gain one primary purpose of, for example, obsessively checking whether they have more likes and comments than their friends (Trinko). The mindset is changed, and it becomes more difficult for the young persons to socialize, making them less sociable and more isolated.
Finally, it is vital to mention that increased and uncontrolled use of social networks may lead to the development or worsening of different mental diseases. As noted by Manning-Schaffel, though social media is not the only cause, unlimited access to networks can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Further, if a person is already diagnosed with any mental condition, it is required that their access to social applications is under strict control as social media can have both positive and negative effects on their state. Overall, if a young individual with depression uses their social media accounts too often, they may start thinking that they are deprived of the joys of life that other uses show on their profiles and lose any motivation for socialization.
The Three Ways that Social Networks Affect People’s Sociability
In this paper, it is mentioned that social media has both positive and negative effects on the youth’s sociableness. The purpose of Waytz’s and Gray’s article is to explore the three primary ways that social networks and technology, in general, affect people’s sociability (473). To begin with, if one’s offline engagement with other individuals is already deep, the use of social applications can complement this communication and benefit sociability (Waytz and Gray 476). For example, if a teenager has many friends, spends much of their time with them, and does not try to substitute the real world with the online one, social media can only facilitate their interactions. For instance, by allowing to find more friends or keeping in touch with foreign people. In this case, the teenager does not need to use the networks every minute and is free of any attachment to their social profiles.
Second, if there are no other ways a young person can attain deep offline connections, social media can enhance sociableness. Thus, if one cannot get outside too often due to their disease, or there are no peers in their neighborhood, finding friends online and spending a reasonable amount of time to chat with them benefits one’s social skills and engagement. Finally, Waytz and Gray say that sociability can be significantly impaired if superficial online interaction completely supplants deeper personal communication (476). Therefore, it is vital to have limited access to social networks and prioritize face-to-face interactions as they are more beneficial for one’s mental health.
Young Adults’ Perceptions of Their Use of Social Media
Unfortunately, not all teenagers and young adults recognize their addiction and realize that their uncontrolled use of social networks has reduced their sociability. Phoon believes that thanks to social networks, precisely Gen Z is the loneliest and most antisocial generation (2). Some researchers, including Amatenstein and Gonchar, provide stories about the relationship between social media and sociableness told by their clients or friends. For example, Amatenstein’s thirty-five-year-old patient Janette struggled with face-to-face communications and decided to deepen her online interactions. While becoming more and more involved in the lives of other users, she started spending more than sixty hours per week on social media but felt even more lonely and rejected (Amatenstein). Thus, it is possible to say that Janette’s feeling of isolation was accentuated by social media.
Further, some other interesting stories prove that disconnecting from social networks can bring more value and connection to real relationships. According to Gonchar, some students decide to set limits and boundaries and ban the use of their smartphones when being with friends or family. Indeed, not being distracted by constant notifications promotes face-to-face communication and allows people to pay attention to, listen to, and actually hear each other.
The Sociability of the Previous and Current Generations
It is hard to disagree that there are certain differences in the lifestyles of the youngest generation and the previous ones. Grandparents and parents of the representatives of Gen Z did not have access to social networks while growing up and learning to communicate. To learn some news about their friends or relatives, they had to actually meet with them in real life and talk. Face-to-face communication was the only way to keep in touch because phones were not as useful and convenient as nowadays. Previous generations could not spend their time scrolling through Instagram, and they had no need to get distracted by smartphones while spending time with their friends. Personal communication was more valuable years ago, and meeting with people was one of the most interesting ways of spending one’s free time.
Unfortunately, nowadays, it is more engaging for a young adult to scroll through different social applications, watch videos uploaded by strangers, read comments written by anonymous users, and compare how many likes someone’s photo gets. According to Twenge et al., social networks have partly replaced face-to-face meetings of young people with peers and suppressed their desire to live offline (1894). They do not get any pleasure and additional energy because they cannot see the emotions of their friends, cannot exchange thoughts in a real-life conversation that is always more vivid, bright, and engaging than sending voice messages.
Further, social networks deprive their users of physical contact and non-verbal communication, including hugs, touching, patting on the shoulder, smiling, and other gestures that express very important emotions. Without them, it is challenging for a person to boost their energy and have enough of it to stay healthy both mentally and physically. Everyone, especially young adults and teenagers, needs to have real-life social contacts because their internal battery is recharged precisely from live communication, not from exchanging comments with an anonymous user.
Specific Differences in the Ways Older and Younger Generations Use Their Smartphones
It is evident that the representatives of different generations use their smartphones and social media profiles in a variety of ways. Understanding these differences may allow understanding how the elderly can avoid the negative influence of social networks on sociability. As noticed by researchers, eighty percent of Boomers usually have one social media profile, access it from a computer, and use it for communication and sharing (“Social Media for Every Generation”). When they were younger, they did not have this technology, so now they are not dependent on social applications. Generation X also uses social applications to connect with people and search for information (“Social Media for Every Generation”). Millennials were the first generation to get acquainted with social media, and many of them perceived it as their primary form of communication. Finally, for Gen Z, social networks are initially for entertainment and not for interactions, which is probably another reason social media makes them feel lonelier and less sociable.
To draw a conclusion, one may say that the relationship between the increased use of various social networks and smartphones themselves and people’s reduced social skills is evident. Paradoxically, what was originally created to make it easier for people to communicate and reduce the distance between persons living in different cities or countries now alienates them from each other. The levels of loneliness and antisociality among young people are increased partly because their smartphones, videos, and news on social networks can completely replace communication and keep them busy for many hours. This is an issue of great concern, and it is required that specific interventions are created to address the problem of the youth’s addiction to social media. Otherwise, it can have more severe problems in the future, including the rise in the level of mental illnesses.
Amatenstein, Sherry. “Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness.” Psycom, 2019, Web.
Ang, Carmen. “Visualizing the World’s Population by Age Group.” Visual Capitalist, 2021, Web.
Brown, Dalvin. “Remember Vine? These Social Networking Sites Defined the Past Decade.” USA Today, 2019, Web.
“Current World Population.” Worldometer, 2021, Web.
Gonchar, Michael. “Does Technology Make Us More Alone?” The New York Times, 2016, Web.
Manning-Schaffel, Vivian. “Americans Are Lonelier than Ever — but ‘Gen Z’ May Be the Loneliest.” Better by Today, 2018, Web.
“Number of Children Under 5 Years Old, World.” Our World in Data, 2021, Web.
Phoon, Andie. “Social Media and Its Stark Influence on Society.” WRIT: Journal of First-Year Writing, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-6, Web.
Saiidi, Uptin. “Social Media Making Millennials Less Social: Study.” CNBC, 2015, Web.
“Social Media for Every Generation.” PostBeyond, Web.
Trinko, Katrina. “Gen Z is the Loneliest Generation, and It’s Not Just Because of Social Media.” USA Today, 2018, Web.
Twenge, Jean M., et al. “Less In-Person Social Interaction with Peers Among US Adolescents in the 21st Century and Links to Loneliness.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, vol. 36, no. 6, 2019, pp. 1892-1913.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. Oxford University Press, 2018.
Waytz, Adam, and Kurt Gray. “Does Online Technology Make Us More or Less Sociable? A Preliminary Review and Call for Research.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 13, no. 4, 2018, pp. 473-491, Web.
Whaite, Erin O., et al. “Social Media Use, Personality Characteristics, and Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the United States.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 124, 2018, pp. 45-50, Web.
Wilson, Sara. “The Era of Antisocial Social Media.” Harvard Business Review, 2020, Web.