“Using social media doesn’t create social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.” Stephen March said this in The Atlantic in 2012. And it now seems that social media and technology are not solely responsible for making us lonlier. It’s what you bring to Facebook, for example, that matters. Socially engaged people use it to further engage; lonely people use it to make loneliness. We do, however, seem to be reaching some sort of saturation level.
Being online is not just something we do. It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self. According to a recent British study, we check our phones on average 221 times a day – about every 4.3 minutes. At saturation levels, social media reduces the amount of time people spend in uninterrupted solitude, the time when people can excavate and process their internal states. “It encourages social multi-tasking. You’re with the people you’re with, but you’re also monitoring the six billion other people who might be communicating something more interesting from far away. It flattens the range of emotional experiences.”
David Brooks of the New York Times has also observed that “when we’re addicted to online life, every moment is fun and diverting, but the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying.” I guess that is something we will all have to decide for ourselves in terms of its impact on the quality and most important values of our lives.