The Best Way to Stay Connected Is to Disconnect

Forget social media's shiny promises — log off and be with those you love, cherish and enjoy

Step away from your phone. It’ll brighten your day and improve your relationships. Really.

Yet another new study has come out showing there are consequences to being hyper-connected to electronics — and to socializing more on social media than in person.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that for those who spend over two hours a day on social networks, the chances of feeling socially isolated are twice as high. And people who visit social networks over 58 times a week are three times more likely to feel lonely than those who use the sites less than nine times.

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The same group of researchers issued an almost identical warning a year ago, stating that “the findings could guide clinical and public health interventions to tackle depression, forecast to become the leading cause of disability in high-income countries by 2030.”

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The article just below (see link) gives us a look at yet another recent study, which found that kids may feel less satisfied with their lives after spending just an hour a day on social media.

Related: Social Media Worries for Your Kids? Put Your Own Phone Down First

It’s unclear whether social media causes loneliness — or if already lonely people spend more time on social networks. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is one reason researchers have found people are online so much. Sadly, it may also be what facilitates feelings of exclusion.

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“For example, an individual may discover pictures or other evidence of events to which they were not invited,” the researchers noted. And, “Instead of accurately representing reality, social media feeds are in fact highly curated by their owners. Exposure to such highly idealized representations of peers’ lives may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives, which may increase perceived social isolation.”

Excessive time online, in reality, takes away from the time we have to be physically present with our family and friends and engaging in activities.

“We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together,” said professor Brian Primack of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in a press release. “While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests it may not be the solution people were hoping for.”

Related: Social Media Is Not Your Friend

More evidence that logging off social media is best for our health: Social isolation, in which individuals lack a sense of social belonging and any true engagement with others, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. It is actually comparable, studies have shown, to obesity in terms of a potential association with negative health effects.

It’s also associated with unnatural increases in cortisol patterns, which can disrupt sleep, immune function, and cognition. Social isolation also affects gene expression, negatively impacting vascular and mental health, the researchers noted.

“In view of these underlying mechanisms, it is not surprising that social isolation can substantially increase the risk for all-cause mortality,” Primacy and his colleagues stated in their report.

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