May 2012 is Facebook month in the media, with news that concerns Facebook stockholders and daily users. In case you haven’t heard how Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, lost $2 billion a few days after his stock went public, get the story here
How does this news story impacts my readers, who seek great love tips for great relationships? It reveals how our skyrocketing usage of Facebook and social media is contributing to an epidemic of loneliness. Get the whole story in this Atlantic Monthly report.
I’ll summarize the report’s findings on why Facebook makes us lonely, and then I’ll suggest ways to use social media to build even better relationships.
Is there really an epidemic of loneliness?
A 2010 AARP survey that found 35 percent of adults older than 45 were chronically lonely, as opposed to 20 percent of a similar group only a decade earlier. According to a major study by a leading scholar on loneliness, roughly 20 percent of Americans —- about 60 million people —- are unhappy with their lives because of loneliness. Across the Western world, physicians and nurses now speak openly of an epidemic of loneliness.
How does loneliness affect married couples vs. singles?
People who are married are less lonely than single people, one journal article suggests, but only if their spouses are confidants. If one’s spouse is not a confidant, marriage may not decrease loneliness.
One survey revealed that millions of people do not have any confidants with whom to discuss important matters. To compensate for this social deficiency, many people now hire confidants, like therapists or life coaches, to help them through regular problems in life and love.
So how does Facebook usage affect levels of loneliness?
A recent study out of Australia, where half the population actively uses Facebook, revealed that FB users had slightly lower levels of “social loneliness” — the sense of not feeling bonded with friends – but “significantly higher levels of family loneliness” — the sense of not feeling bonded with family.
Researchers suggested it may be that Facebook encourages more contact with people outside of our household, at the expense of our family relationships. Or it may be that people who have unhappy family relationships in the first place seek companionship through other means, including Facebook.
The researchers also found that lonely people are inclined to spend more time on Facebook: “One of the most noteworthy findings,” they wrote, “was the tendency for neurotic and lonely individuals to spend greater amounts of time on Facebook per day than non-lonely individuals.” And they found that neurotics are more likely to prefer to use the wall, while extroverts tend to use chat features in addition to the wall.
The Australian study “Who Uses Facebook?” found a significant correlation between Facebook use and narcissism: “Facebook users have higher levels of total narcissism, exhibitionism, and leadership than Facebook non-users,” the study’s authors wrote. “In fact, it could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.”
I’ve observed that superficial behavior causes loneliness. Making friends on Facebook, sharing news of your day, posting photos or favorite quotes create superficial connections which can’t satisfy our primal need to bond on deep levels with friends and family. What’s the antidote?
It’s understanding this: No bond is real, unless you build it face-to-face.
The best way to use Facebook, social media, dating sites, skype or any long distance communication technology is as a bridge to build an up close and personal connection. You can learn how to communicate on deep levels that develop intimacy, resolve conflicts, and create fulfilling relationships. You can’t learn it by making friends on Facebook.
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