shepton mallet outlet Is technology making us lonely
It’s meant to connect us, but is technology only making us feel more alone? Is there anything we can do about it?But the more you use technology to communicate, the lonelier you are likely to be. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by Relationships Australia, a community based support services organization.
“Forty two per cent of Australians who used an average of four methods of technology to communicate [such as email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter] were lonely compared with 11 per cent of people who used only one,” says Sue Miller, a manager at Relationships Australia Queensland.
The 2011 results, which come from polling 1204 people over the age of 18, also challenge the idea that elderly people are society’s loneliest.
The data reveal that people aged 25 34 were most likely to frequently feel lonely (27 per cent) and that young adults aged 18 24 are the second loneliest group; 19 per cent frequently feel lonely. For those over 70 years of age, the figure was 11 per cent.
Miller says she was surprised by the results which also showed respondents who indicated they frequently felt lonely were more likely to use Facebook to communicate with friends, family and potential partners (54 per cent) than respondents who infrequently (39 per cent) and respondents who never (28 per cent) felt lonely.
“What we don’t know is which came first: was it that they felt lonely and they used technology as a means to lessen their loneliness; or are they using more social media and that is increasing their loneliness?” explains Miller. “We now want to look at that question in more detail.”
The online/offline balancing actThere’s no doubt that technology can bring positives to our relationships just think how many people today meet their partners online.
When the Relationships Australia survey asked respondents whether they believed social networking had a positive impact on relationships 54 per cent of those aged 18 24 said it did (although this figure decreased as the age of the respondents increased).
But mixed with this positivity is a worry that virtual communication whether it’s via social networks or SMS is no match for a face to face get together.
“The quality of online communication is impoverished in comparison with the physical, real world face to face communication,” says Dr Catriona Morrison, an experimental psychologist at the University of Leeds in England who has studied the link between depression and internet addiction.
“You often don’t hear someone’s voice and you don’t see any body signals, which we know from traditional psychology are important.”
Morrison’s observations are mirrored in the Relationships Australia survey,
where respondents listed having less face to face contact and spending time on the computer at the expense of being with other people among the main ways social networking can harm relationships.
Morrison says it’s important to be aware of how much time you are spending online.
“It’s like any addictive behaviour . where you have feelings of a loss of control, where you [are] going online for many more hours than you intend and you are replacing face to face relationships with online relationships,” Morrison says.
“That’s where the problems occur.”
As to whether loneliness drives people to the internet or whether the internet and social media lends itself to behaviours that lead to loneliness, Morrison says that, in all likelihood, it’s probably a bit of both.
Only the lonely: how loneliness can affect our healthFeeling lonely on occasion is not uncommon some might say it’s part and parcel of being human so why should we be worried about it?
Well, chronic loneliness can lead to an array of health problems that include anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse. It’s also a risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease.
While it has been known for many years that people who are socially isolated have poorer immune systems than those who are ‘connected,’ only in the last few years has the biological mechanism that explains the link between loneliness and ill health been determined.
This group of people also have increased levels of hormones, such as cortisol, a stress hormone. It now appears that these hormones alter gene expression in immune cells, which compromises the body’s ability to fight infection and contain inflammation.
Interestingly, physically being with others can lead to a release of the ‘feel good’ hormone oxytocin, which is an anti inflammatory.
The analysis, which was based on 148 independent studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for an average of seven and a half years, also found social connections friends, family, neighbors or colleagues improved the odds of survival by 50 per cent.