The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks

You’d think that the digital age would bring everyone closer together.
On the surface, Facebook looks as if it’s a great idea. It provides a great resource for fulfilling a basic human need.
The need for social connection.
But, rather than enhancing our well-being, research findings suggest that Facebook may actually makes us feel worse.
A recent study had researchers texting a quick survey 5 times per day asking people a few questions including asking them to rate how they were feeling, how many times they’d used Facebook since the last text and how many times they’d had direct social interaction with people.
They also filled in a questionnaire before and after the 2 week experiment so that they could get a baseline of their satisfaction in life.
What it all showed was that direct interaction with people does not predict any changes in life satisfaction, but using Facebook does.
The researchers were able to predict the life satisfaction levels at the end of the study by analysing how frequently they’d used Facebook. The more people used it the worse they felt the next time they text-messaged them!
Showing that the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined.
But why?
Connecting with people usually pushes the happy buttons in our brain. So what is it about Facebook that causes the opposite.
I think that Facebook gives us glimpses into someone’s world, that is at best filtered and at worst fabricated. So much so that it’s become outside of the norm for someone to post something personal on Facebook which is genuine.
For someone to write on Facebook how depressed they are, how they feel that their relationship is holding them back or that they feel unfulfilled with life is almost unheard of.
Instead people lie and say “Couldn’t be happier, chilling with my perfect man tonight after a great day at the office”
Really?, I don’t think so.
If someone genuinely feels that good, that they wouldn’t be wasting their “perfect chill time” with their partner by posting things on Facebook.
No-one’s holiday pictures include the sickness and diarrhoea, the cockroaches or the drunken fight with pedro the bus driver.
Instead they’ll lie on their back and post a pic of their feet with the sea in the background instead, because that’s what they want you to see.
If someone wants you to know something, question why. Is it to make them feel good? Is it to try and make you feel bad?
Now, I’m not saying NEVER use it, but don’t swap genuine interaction with a real human being, for a like on a comment.
If you’re bored, sitting around, waiting for your wife to come out of the changing rooms at Selfridges AGAIN then that’s not so bad, but don’t let it replace something more useful.
After all, your mobile phone has already replaced your camera, your CD player even your bookshelf. It shouldn’t also replace your connection with friends and family.
Research from about 18 months ago found that nearly half of 18-24 year olds say they often feel lonely. Compared to only a quarter of those aged over 65 and a UK average of a third.
In another survey last year. Half of the over 55’s asked said they NEVER feel lonely whereas 83% of under 35’s said that they were ‘often, always or sometimes’ lonely.
If you find that despite having 1000 Facebook friends you still feel lonely or isolated, then learning to deal with anxiety is the first step, listening to these podcasts means you’re already a step ahead of anyone else, it means that if there are changes to be made then you are willing to learn how to make them.
Learn some relaxation exercises,
Learn to breathe properly,
Learn to speak to complete strangers, even if it’s just a generic bloke walking his dog, or better still get a dog and go and take it for a walk, I guarantee you’ll have more “good mornings” thrown your way than you ever have had before.
Or just simply pick up the phone and call someone you’ve not spoken to for a while. Because that’s a habit that it would be nice to get back into, it’s a part of life that’s being replaced with pixels on a electronic device, and that’s not a proper conversation.