Is social media making us lonelier?

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There’s no denying that as a society, we are more connected than ever. With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, Google +, Flickr and thousands of other social media sites all competing for our attention, and millions of people online at every hour of the day, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever be lonely.

But according to the Relationships Indicators Survey 2011, Gen Y – the most internet-savvy of all the generations – is also the loneliest. The SMH reports

30 per cent of Australians aged 25 to 34 told the survey they were frequently lonely, far more than any other age group. The second most lonely were the young adults – 19 per cent of them were frequently lonely.

The survey, which polled 1204 adults this year, highlighted connections between online life and loneliness. The frequently lonely were much more likely to try online dating, and to use several forms of social media (particularly Facebook) to maintain friendships.

With all the benefits of social networking, there are bound to be downfalls. Even though you might have 100 friends on Facebook chat at any one time, you might also be receiving status updates from friends alerting you to the fact that they’re having a great time at a party you weren’t invited to. Or didn’t even know about.  And what about the photos of your ex who’s obviously moved on faster than you have?

But can’t we switch off our computers, our smartphones and our tablets, forget about the online world and spend some quality time with ourselves? According to the article, we’re not even capable of that.

Melbourne University philosopher Damon Young says Generation Y is lonelier because people don’t know how to be alone.

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“People who are constantly connected electronically find being alone very difficult, so it’s not that these people are necessarily more alone; it’s that they feel it more keenly. I would guess that older people who haven’t been continually saturated with information are actually able to stand their own company.”

What do you think – has social networking made us lonelier? And have we forgotten how to be alone? Or is it just a different way of communicating that we’re just getting used to?

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