Psychology Melbourne Blog

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Experiencing Loneliness in a World of Online Social Connection

experiencing loneliness in a world of online social connection

Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but a persistent and consistent feeling of being alone can be a terrible burden. And In today’s society, with the constant buzz of online social interaction, it’s so much easier to feel isolated and left out.

It’s ironic because the instant gratification of a social media post “like” or comment is not the same as the positive feelings one gets from genuine human connection. As English novelist E.M. Forster foresaw at the turn of the 20th Century, the inexorable advance of technology comes at the expense of authentic human connection, causing a pervasive sense of isolation.

While control over online connections and posts can help people who struggle in social interactions to express themselves, it can also lead to people leaning on technology and the Internet for emotional support.

277 university students were assessed according to the UCLA Loneliness Scale and the top 20% most lonely were much more likely to report using both the Internet to alleviate negative feelings, as well as experiencing resulting disturbances in their daily life.

Although your brain releases dopamine - a pleasure chemical - when you get positive online attention, it’s unwise to rely on fluctuating and uncontrollable responses from the online world as a principal source of pleasure. Those “virtual” validations can be fleeting and unpredictable since they are out of one’s control, and subject to negative consequences such as anonymous, brutal trolling.

Real joy stems from within and with practice it can be a much more consistent, rewarding and reliable source of positive emotions.

One of the best ways to alleviate feelings of loneliness is by connecting with another person. Reaching out to a friend or family member and displaying and discussing your feelings will help you realise you are not alone, and that it is quite uncommon for someone to not struggle in some way.

Seek out a hobby or something that makes you feel internally fulfilled. Stay busy, stay connected, practise self-compassion, and remember it's OK to reach out when times are tough.

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