Social Media Use Linked to Feelings of Social Isolation

Woman texting on phone at cafeHigh levels of social media use are linked to greater feelings of social isolation, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Previous research on social media’s mental health effects is mixed. A 2015 study reported higher rates of unaddressed mental health concerns among teens who frequently use social media. A 2016 analysis found people who compare themselves to others on social media may experience depression. The same study also contends that users who rely on social media to access social support may experience a decline in depression.

Are Frequent Social Media Users More Isolated?

The study used a nationally representative sample of 1,787 people ages 19-32. Participants answered questions about their use of 11 social media sites, including LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, and others. They also took a survey measuring isolation, indicating the degree to which they agreed with statements such as “I feel like people barely know me.”

People who spent more time on social media sites were more likely to perceive and report high levels of isolation. Specifically, those who spent 121 minutes or more on social media daily were more likely to indicate isolation than those who spent 30 minutes or less on social media.

The study did not test for a causal relationship, so it is impossible to determine whether social media use causes isolation or is only linked to it in some way. Some other factor common to frequent social media users might contribute to isolation. For example, people might use social media more frequently in an attempt to combat loneliness or seek out social support. Social media use could also cause users to spend less time with others, triggering feelings of isolation.

Because the study relied on self-reports, it is impossible to know whether participants’ reports about their social media use were accurate. Likewise, it is unclear whether frequent social media users were more isolated than others or if they just felt more isolated in comparison to others.


Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Whaite, E. O., Lin, L. Y., Rosen, D., . . . Miller, E. (2017). Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2017.01.010

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  • Rolan

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:43 PM

    So maybe I am the odd person here but being a part of social media platforms has left me feeling the most connected to other people than I have felt since high school.

    Now I will say that most of the people I interact with are not necessarily best friends, we are acquaintances, but I always know that there are at least a few who are up for a good conversation every day, and even if online, I kind of like that.

    I think that maybe those who are feeling isolation from it are putting too much into it, wanting more form it than what it is designed to give.

  • burke

    March 30th, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    It can be very true that there can even be such a thing as too much of a good thing. I guess in the case of social media that also can be true.

  • Liza

    March 31st, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    Much of this I suspect is based on how someone uses this platform.
    Are you really just using it to hook up with people from the past and share the things going on in your life?
    Or do you view it more as a way to keep tabs on others and see the things that they have that you feel like you have someway missed out on?
    I think that you have to look at the purpose behind the intent, and the fact that if someone is using it for negative reasons then chances are good that they will get something negative out of it.


    April 1st, 2017 at 6:03 AM

    Precisely what I was searching for, thank you for posting.

  • Roxanna P

    December 6th, 2017 at 12:27 AM

    I think it is a mixture of causes. When one feels more lonely and disconnected and there is no easy face to face access to people one trust, it might be easier to just connect to social media. On the other hand, I have been seated to dinner with friends that I haven’t seen in a year, longing to look directly into their faces and catch up on anything and everything, just to have them focused on their smart phones, checking FB, LinkedIn, etc.

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