We have more ways to stay in touch than ever: text messages, social networks, email and more. Yet research from Relationships Australia suggests that using multiple means of staying in touch may make us feel lonelier rather than better connected.
Picture by Bert Kaufmann
In its annual Relationships Indicator survey which covered 1,204 people, the counselling body asked how many different means of communicating people used to stay in touch with loved ones. The list of methods covered email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter and online dating. That was also the overall order of popularity of those options.
One surprise finding: "The more methods of technology people used to communicate, the more likely they were to frequently feel lonely."
While the loneliness correlation is an interesting discovery, I'd want to avoid jumping to the typical online-communication-is-fake-get-face-to-face grumpiness that I'm sure will be spouting out of the papers shortly. There's a bunch of other figures you'd need to see: for starters, how frequently are more traditional means of communication (face-to-face, phoning, writing letters) being used by those people? Without that data, it's risky to draw really strong conclusions.
And it certainly doesn't mean that online technologies are all bad. 27% of respondents said social networking had improved their relationships, while 16% said it had a negative impact. 57% said it had made no difference.
As you'd expect, younger people were more positive about technology. 13% of respondents aged between 25 and 34 had met their partner online. I suspect youth may also be a factor in the loneliness finding; if you're older and have a more stable set of relationships, you're less likely to feel lonely but also a little less likely to use multiple technologies.
How does having new means of communication impact on your feelings of loneliness? We're listening in the comments.