Connected but lonely?
When we speak of connection, our immediate thoughts are now associated with our digital access to information and the virtual connections of people. The popularity of social networks in recent years has substituted real-life social connections with virtual equivalents.
Research has found that lonely people who regularly used technology, gained a degree of emotional support and a way to regulate negative moods and feeling lonely.
However, recent studies have also found a correlation between people’s loneliness and the frequency and exposure to social networks. According to these studies, the feeling of being alone even when surrounded by people (emotional loneliness) and not having any friends (social loneliness) are both characteristics of the growing virtual lives we now lead. Face-to-face interaction can reduce the feelings of social and emotional loneliness that social networks do not address and may even cause.
Virtual Connections are not the same as Real Connections
As an example of this, the average number of digital friends for a Facebook user is around 130, while the average number of people who he/she considers ‘real’ friends is around 10. Social networks are a fun medium of communication but do not provide the level of collective welfare that we receive and share when we meet people in real life. In the context of recovery, social network access is highly addictive and we should all be aware of the risks of compensative addiction.
Managing Social Network Usage
There are different and polarised approaches of how to we may go about spending less time on social media. Some advocate disconnecting completely before introducing more conscious and controlled access. Others advise limiting our access by managing our usage. Whatever way feels more appropriate to you, here are some suggestions:
Select a reasonable time limit to spend on social media every day. For example, it could be 20 minutes a day, or shorter access twice a day. You could chose to have no connection at weekends or during holidays. Smartphones have all sorts of alarm clocks that you can set to keep you on schedule.
Turn off your phone
Especially during social events, for example, meals with friends, family gathering, walks in the park, etc. By giving these activities the full attention without distractions, we build up a natural antidote against emotional loneliness. Real people are more important than virtual connections.
Choose a network
Social network are particularly addictive when we continually flit between them. Many of us go from checking Facebook, then Twitter, then back onto Facebook and then onto Instagram, and Twitter again. This absorbs huge amounts of time that we can feel we have wasted when we could have done something more enjoyable. So select your favourite network and cancel the other apps from our phone. This will help us stick to our time limit and be less tempted to extend our time on social media.
Take up other hobbies
Most of us would define the time spent on social media as ‘unproductive’. Why not fill your schedule with more meaningful and educational pursuits? For example, healthier offline activities like games or sports. Or try learning a new skill or language. By limiting social media use, we can free up a considerable amount of time that we never knew we had. Juggling so may virtual connections may be limiting us from achieving other things.
These steps should allow us to have more real life interactions and perhaps even reconnect with old friends.