Using Multiple Technologies Can Make You Feel Lonelier

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.

Relationships Australia


Comments

    I use multiple social networks to stay in touch with my family and friends.
    I have made friends overseas by way of social media and my children live a long way from me in different directions.
    I often feel lonely but would like to examine the figures as loneliness may be the cause rather than the effect.

      I would agree with this, statistics can often be misinterpreted ( http://xkcd.com/925/ ). Identifying the independent variable in cases where its not completely obvious can be tricky.

    With my recent experience with Relationships Australia I would not trust them to find their own arses with both hands let alone work out the long term societal impact of not being able to do it.

    I think this is being looked at from the wrong perspective. I would argue that multiple technologies enable more frequent contact with others and that it's the frequency, not the method, which triggers the amplified loneliness.

    Just like technology increased the speed at which mail could be delivered. A reply to a domestic letter could take a week. These days, if we don't have a reply to an email within an hour or two, we get frustrated.

    Technology is an enabler, but it is the frequency which is actually the cause of the issues.

    Corellation != causation.

    I think it's more likely that people who happen to be lonely are more likely to use every avenue possible to connect with others; whereas people who happen to be less lonely find their existing means of connecting adequate for their needs.

    I think that having many ways of communicating with people shows that there are many people who have a fast paced life. A lot of people use Facebook and the like at work on breaks, sitting at stop lights etc... Being busy can cause loneliness as well as a lot of other things. Using commonalities to draw conclusions is sketchy at best. Lonely people all have their reasons for feeling the way they do and if they're communicating with people it's a good thing. Lonely feelings can often go along with depression so support is important.

    Having so many communication channels within easy reach, means that you'll want to...communicate! This is, of course, a two-way street. Therefore, you'll always be waiting for that 'ping' of new message or that red light to 'flash' with a new email.

    One important aspect missing here is skype though! This has made talking with family and friends, who are thousands of miles away, like being in the next room.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now