Is Social Networking Driving Us Into Isolation?
Social Isolation Research
In 2009, with the onset of mainstream adoption of Facebook and Twitter, Psychology Today released an article noting that social isolation is a modern plague. Therefore, one might assume that online communities might be the antidote for such a plague.
Now, in 2018, MarketWatch releases another bleak article related to social isolation in America and its impact on health.
The article confirms that social networking use correlates directly with social isolation. As the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc goes up, feelings of social isolation follows.
So this tells us that social isolation is not merely measured by a decreased quantity of social interactions. Quite the opposite, as many of us would be the most socially healthy people in the world if measured by our Tweets, Feeds, and Timelines.
Sadly, these platforms are specifically designed to use us as consumer purchasing power rather than as socially connected people.
Defining Social Isolation & Its Sources
If you reference the word Isolate, you find that the definition of the word very much implies that an external force causes one to isolate. However, counseling articles and references will frequently imply people often isolate themselves. I would dare to assert that the truth is that many people find so many problems trying to avoid being rejected and ignored. As a result, they finally stop trying to socially connect.
To stop trying to connect in a world that is rejecting you? This sounds like a healthy survival mechanism.
Wikipedia’s reference for military strategies to isolate apply directly to what we witness in social networks daily:
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.
This situation is highly dangerous for the encircled force: at the strategic level, because it cannot receive supplies or reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the units in the force can be subject to an attack from several sides. Lastly, since the force cannot retreat, unless it is relieved or can break out, it must either fight to the death or surrender. A special kind of encirclement is the siege. In this case, the encircled forces are enveloped in a fortified position in which long-lasting supplies and strong defences are in place, allowing them to withstand attacks. Sieges have taken place in almost all eras of warfare. In modern warfare, an encircled force that is not under siege is commonly referred to as a pocket.
Social Isolation and Steps You Can Take
Like so many things that are less than ideal, it is up to us to improve the situation in our own worlds in which we exist each day. What can you do to thrive socially in a world where ‘Friends’ have been made a commodity and often behave like the enemy?
Avoid Encirclement: Surround Yourself by Trusted Friends
- Review your list of Friends & Followers
- Remove those friends/followers that don’t behave as if they are at a dinner table amongst true friends.
- Enjoy a smaller footprint of people you trust and can have real discussions with.
Defend Yourself: Close Social Network Accounts That Don’t Fit Your Personality
By being smart about how you use each separate account, you can avoid ending up in a political pit when all you wanted to do was follow NFL scores and your favorite recipes.
- Make deliberate decisions about each social network. Are you there for debates? Are you there to create controversy? Are you there to impact change? Are you there just to learn about companies you are interested in?
- Set up separate accounts for each objective. If you use Twitter with the intention of following your favorite products and not getting into controversy, then strictly only Follow the companies you are wanting to stay connected with. This will tailor that account to give you exactly the experience you want.
Contain Your Offenses
All of us should actively participate in our worlds. It gives us a sense of hope and purposefulness. However, your passions for the issues you care about may not be shared by others.
- Consider carefully where you want to be a voice of controversy. Do you want to make your Facebook friends feel isolated by being in your circle? Be compassionate and empathetic.
- Choose where your opinions can best be channeled toward something productive. What do you want to do with your voice?
- Create an account on the appropriate network for your voice. Give it a path to work, not to offend.
Social Isolation & My Journey
Like almost everyone, I have done this dance myself for years now. I learned in 2007 timeframe that mixing workplace colleagues with personal friends is tricky on Facebook. In 2010, I learned that my heartfelt journey through life’s hardships was something only a couple of my ‘friends’ gave a flip about. In 2015, I learned that being single in a Facebook group of mostly married moms was a very isolating experience.
As a result of my own journey, these are the steps I have taken for a much better life surviving online:
- Twitter is a GREAT platform to use your voice. Creating an anonymous account on Twitter and Following all of the controversy and issues of the day, I have a voice that I exercise regularly. The benefit of Twitter is it is completely open, so it is a primary place for our leaders and companies to keep a pulse on public opinion. Twitter is a battlefield. I am deliberate with who I follow and why.
- Facebook is my place for people that can all sit down with me for dinner – together. My Friend connections are deleted quickly if they choose to be the troublemaker intent on offending my other ‘dinner guests’.
- I separate professional colleagues from family/friends. Stakes are too high not to. Also, there is very little I would share that would be of interest to both groups.
- I maintain a whole separate group of accounts dedicated to a small side business I dabble with.
- In the case of social networks, less is not more. Having more accounts, each with a specific purpose, is what I have found is the most helpful.
I hope some of these tips are helpful or inspire you to think of your own strategies for letting social networks work for you. Until the platforms evolve to the complexity of our psyches, we are left to take control and find ways to prevent Facebook and others from diminishing our lives.
Need Help with Social Isolation?
If you landed here because of your own struggles with feeling disconnected or isolated, do not hesitate to get help from a licensed counselor or a trusted friend that will listen.