The notion that humans require social interaction is widely considered a universal truth. In the dawn of the digital era, social media was viewed as an easy way to fulfill this basic human need. Unfortunately, studies are finding that social connection via sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, and LinkedIn may be having adverse effects on the mental health of young individuals.
A study gathering data from 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19-32 found that spending two or more hours daily on the above mentioned social sites increased an individual’s chances of feeling lonely twofold. In fact, it found that those who visit social networking sites over 58 times a week are three times more likely to feel socially isolated than those who limit time on social apps to under nine visits per week (Independent.co.uk, 2017).
Upon analyzing this data, one must be careful not to correlate social media usage with loneliness. It would be a logical fallacy to claim that spending more time on social media causes or leads to feeling lonely because it’s also possible that lonely people use more social media. The study does suggest that the more time an individual spends on social, they spend less time interacting with others in person.
A second, more expansive study conducted on college students in Hong Kong went further to define excessive internet use as unhealthy and addictive. It concluded that online social interaction with family and friends is not a sufficient alternative for in-person companionship.
Both studies present data supporting the belief that humans specifically need in-person social interaction, and that virtual communication can lead to an increased feeling of solitude.
Ironically, developers have come up with a tech-savvy solution for this problem. Drawing from the popularity of Tinder and Bumble for targeting sexual and romantic seclusion, Ameego could be a modern answer for addressing platonic isolation. The app has a three-step process: first, submit a hangout request detailing ideas for what to do and when, and receive a response within an hour. After the meetup, those involved can rate and tip new connections which are displayed when the individual engages in further hangouts.
The general idea behind Ameego has merit, but the rating and tipping system could cause someone who’s already unlikely to interact in person to withdraw from people in distrust, reduce one’s confidence, and discourage future in-person interaction.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine