Unlike emotions such as anger, where one can easily detect through a flushed face or a clenched fist, loneliness can be harder to notice. According to an article by Dr. James House from the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, the state of social isolation and disconnectedness is comparable to the dangers and mortality caused by cigarette smoking. Yet, unlike smoking, it is less known as to how it directly affects health. The Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index Report last September 2020 suggests that loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest concerns among Canadians who are highly mentally distressed. This is followed by the fear of dying from COVID-19. The financial impact caused by the pandemic only comes third.

 

Why Social Media is Not Enough

 

In a digitally connected world, where connecting socially is very accessible through various social media platforms, it can easily be assumed that social isolation can be addressed. However, this may not be the case. It is not the number of people an individual interacts with, rather it is through the quality of connections being made. A study from the Centre for Mental Health and Safety suggests that social media has started to displace intimate human relations with superficial connections, which ironically increased loneliness among individuals. Though social media has proven to be a useful tool in improving existing relationships, it has an opposite effect on individuals trying to “escape” the reality of loneliness. That is why having thousands of friends on Facebook does not necessarily mean a person is not experiencing loneliness. Research from Trinity College Dublin categorized loneliness into four classifications: low loneliness, social loneliness, emotional loneliness, and social and emotional loneliness. Respondents that fell under the spectrum of social loneliness and emotional loneliness were comparatively less distressed than those experiencing social and emotional loneliness. People experiencing social and emotional loneliness had exhibited symptoms of depression, anxiety, and overall negative mental health. The study also suggested that having social connections without any significant emotional bonds resulted in a substantial negative impact on an individual’s overall mental health. Symptoms of anxiety and depression have also been associated with social media use, with increased time spent on social media correlating to higher tendencies towards symptoms of mental distress. An article from the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology recommends limited social media usage towards decreasing loneliness and depression. 

 

 

Creating Meaningful Connections

 

What most research suggests in coping with social and emotional loneliness is primarily creating strong emotional bonds. In other words, creating value in meaningful relationships rather than superficial connections. Choosing to be with a good company of supportive people can significantly boost one’s self-esteem and overall wellbeing. Investing time in social events that are productive and enjoyable are just some of the alternatives that you can do in addressing social isolation. But creating significant bonds does not always necessarily mean constantly searching for new people. Perhaps you only need to re-connect with family or friends who have always been supporting you. Either way, addressing loneliness and mental health takes effort. As we understand how straightforward it is to take care of one’s body through exercise and a healthy diet, sustaining a healthy mind also requires choosing to be with the right group of people and learning how to appreciate them. Social media is a great tool for expanding your networks and keeping in touch with friends and family, albeit with all things, moderation is always key. 

References

Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health among Older Adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756979/#R8

Social Isolation Kills, But How and Why?

https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Citation/2001/03000/Social_Isolation_Kills,_But_How_and_Why_.11.aspx

The Mental Health Index Report

https://www.morneaushepell.com/sites/default/files/assets/paragraphs/resource-list/mhicanadaseptember2020final.pdf

Creating, Consuming, and Connecting: Examining the Relationship Between Social Media Engagement and Loneliness

https://www.thejsms.org/tsmri/index.php/TSMRI/article/view/92

Loneliness and Social Internet Use: Pathways to Reconnection in a Digital World?

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1745691617713052

Loneliness and Social Internet Use: Pathways to Reconnection in a Digital World?

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1745691617713052#

Quality not quantity: loneliness subtypes, psychological trauma, and mental health in the US adult population

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-018-1597-8

No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression

No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression | Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (guilfordjournals.com)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronald is a marketing communication specialist and a TEFL certified online educator. He enjoys reading novels and writing as a freelancer. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communication and a master’s degree in Marketing Communication. He has also worked in the academe as a lecturer and consultant in the fields of Marketing and Communication Studies.