Our social lives are increasingly moving online.
While interacting with each other through social media might seem harmless, experts believe its prevalence is directly linked to the growth in loneliness plaguing the young.
New research from the Dis/Connect Study, released this month, found one in six Millennials (18-34 years), felt lonely everyday, compared to 7 per cent of 35-49 year olds and 8 per cent of people aged 50 plus.
James Wright, CEO of Red Agency, (which commissioned the research of 1200 Australians), said social isolation, traditionally associated with older generations, is increasingly affecting younger people.
“Some of these people have hundreds, even thousands, of friends on Facebook and Instagram. There’s a difference between having a connection and having a meaningful connection.”
74 per cent of Millennials named Facebook their preferred method for connecting with others. Gen X and the Baby Boomers still preferred a phone call.
A 2016 survey of 1,000 Australians by social demographer Mark McCrindle found the availability of entertainment and takeaway options at home, the internet and busy lifestyles were contributing to social disconnect and a trend in ‘faux-cialising’.
Mr McCrindle said he coined the term to describe our superficial commitment to our social lives.
Seventy-three per cent of those surveyed admitted they regularly cancel social plans to stay home to watch TV and catch up on the event via social media instead. Work functions were the event Australians most often bailed on.
Self-care and downtime were the main reason given. 30 per cent said they commonly cancel because of bad weather while 26 per cent couldn’t be bothered getting dressed for the occasion.
Forget FOMO (fear of missing out). Australians are embracing JOMO (joy of missing out): 45 per cent preferred to stay home every night.
“Social media has clearly helped people stay connected. It’s also diminished a lot of that traditional communication,” Mr McCrindle commented.
Social worker, Debbi Carberry, blames pressures driven by social media for our faux-cialising.
It’s about the perfection: I can’t go out without my hair done and my make-up – because you’ve got to get a selfie.
“It’s about the perfection: I can’t go out without my hair done and my make-up – because you’ve got to get a selfie.”
We need to see the correlation between our lifestyle and our loneliness, she said.
“When you’re in front of a TV screen, you’re not connecting, you’re just parallel living.” Talking to others is a common way for humans to relax and recharge, Ms Carberry added.
“True connection is when I’m seen, heard and valued. When you see my eyes and you see my soul.”
She says the Millennials forget that in order to be seen, they have to see others.
“We have the highest levels of depression and anxiety in that cohort – the Millennials – ever,” she said. “The answer is a cultural shift on what’s important.”