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Facebook: a refuge for the lonely

Published on 16 August 2013
Updated on 05 April 2024

I was recently introduced to the term ’emerging adult’. As I belong to a generation that moved to adulthood on receipt of their first full-time paycheck, it took me by surprise. I hadn’t realised that we had a new, official, transitory period of emergence. 

Unlike me, today’s emerging adults have grown up with social media and social networking sites like Facebook. Updating an online status is as natural to them as sending a postcard was to me, back in the day. And while I might while away half an hour or so on Facebook everyday, I don’t get withdrawal symptoms if we’re not connected for day or two or seven. I joined Facebook so that I could play scrabble (true!) and I use it to check in with people, to see what they’re doing, and to keep in touch with what’s going on. I have never taken it seriously or seen it as a mirror that reflects my life. Yes, I have concerns that social media is reducing rather than increasing our ability to communicate but worried about Facebook on any level other than the amount of time it wastes? Nope. For me, it’s a form of social connection, and until this morning, I’d have felt pretty secure in saying that most of its 1 billion+ members, felt the same.

A recent study, which tracked people for two weeks, has added its voice to a ever louder chorus that says  Facebook might be bad for us.’On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it,’ said the researchers.

The results are interesting. Apparently, the more the participants used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives. They spent more time on Facebook when they were feeling lonely, rather than when they were alone. And this might do more harm than good. Instead of providing solace, it might up the envy stakes just a little. Imagine sitting at home on a Friday night with nothing better to do than troll through Facebook. Imagine then seeing a horde of updates from friends out partying, away for the weekend, or on holiday. The envy of it all. Thankfully, when I stay in on Friday night, I do so out of choice, and prefer to indulge in a good book rather than a series of Facebook updates, yet I can’t help wondering what the angst and envy might do for some.

While the majority of those taking part in the survey said that they only posted good things, more than 35% said that they posted bad things, too. This begs another question – have we gotten to the point whereby we play into this perceived need to put on a good face, to portray our lives as being a lot better than they actually are? Are we, through our Facebook posts, losing touch with reality? Perhaps that’s too big a leap to make, but the question lurks in the background. Methinks that Facebook might indeed have its dark side.

Interested in reading more? Check out the recent post in the Economist.

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