The social media paradox: Teens who are always online feel more lonely
09/18/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

According to several studies, there is a link between the length of time teenagers spend on social media and isolation. Teenagers can turn to different social media networks to get a ton of likes and follows, but does this really make them feel less alone?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen to a whopping 30 percent since 1999. Sadly, the figure can be even higher for teenagers.

Both depression and loneliness are risk factors for depression, and using social media can worsen feelings. A lot of teenagers are online constantly, with 92 percent going online daily. About 89 percent of teenagers use one social media platform every day, with 24 percent of survey participants reporting that they are online "almost constantly."

Even if correlation doesn't mean causation, the rapid development of technology and social media has transformed how children relate to each other and feel about themselves.

A 24/7 connection that makes you feel lonely

The internet is a paradox. It lets you stay "connected," but at the expense of real human contact. A growing body of research is finding connections between the consumption of social media and feelings of isolation and depression.

A study by Dr. Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan discovered that the longer people are on Facebook, the worse they felt.

The findings from Kross' study confirms data from earlier research by Dr. Brian Primack et al. at the University of Pittsburgh. Primack determined that individuals who spent over two hours daily on social media had a 50 percent risk of feeling social isolation unlike those who reported that they only spent 30 minutes every day on social media platforms.


In a separate study at Carnegie Melon Universityresearchers discovered that "feelings of well-being increased when participants engaged directly with their friends on Facebook," such as when liking posts or tagging photos. Meanwhile, those who passively used Facebook felt worse. In another study, the same researcher proved the internet paradox. Users who spent more time online interacted less with their family and friends in real life. This worsened perceived isolation and depression.

These days, teenagers grow up in front of an audience. Nothing is worth remembering unless you have proof… on social media. Aside from simply documenting their lives, social media sometimes forces teenagers to carefully curate each post and photo. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram usually feature the happy moments of a teenager's life, and proof of failures, like bad test scores, are almost never posted.

Social media also enforces "the illusion of connection." Teenagers only show their best selves, yet they feel bad when they see the same thing in their friends. (Related: Facebook admits its site can be bad for you – but says if you are suffering ill effects, you’re doing it wrong.)

When teenagers only present their ideal selves online, they find it harder to make meaningful human connections. Social media can make teenagers feel isolated and behind.

Help your teenager disconnect from social media and engage with real people

Teach your children how to use social media mindfully. Talk to them about several helpful points, such as:

  1. How social media can be used to be connected to the world.
  2. Not every photo online is 100 percent accurate. Remind them that most social feeds are curated and don't accurately represent a person's life.
  3. Social media can be used to inspire others instead of validating life choices.

To help your teenagers deal with feelings of loneliness caused by social media use, tell them to try:

  • Going on "friendly" dates – Ask them to have a non-romantic date with friends. They can even try a board game-themed sleepover, going for a quiet walk, or chatting face-to-face with someone over a cup of coffee.
  • Physical touch – A hug can make them feel happy and secure, and it can also help reduce stress and boost overall health.

Instead of letting teenagers spend hours on social media, teach them that it's important to make meaningful connections in real life with their family and friends.

You can read more articles with tips on how to curb social media addiction in teenagers at

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