Facebook Pixel

How the Internet Affects Social Isolation

By HERWriter
Rate This
Emotional Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Since the early years of Internet usage the debate has raged over whether it actually helps or hinders the development of social relationships and how those relationships and interactions may trigger depression.

Even in face-to-face interactions miscommunications and misunderstandings can happen, heightening stress and potentially triggering depression. The Internet is no different and has the added challenge in that without the face-to-face contact, one cannot hear the inflection of a person’s voice or read the facial expressions, which can in turn lead to misassumptions.

Internet Usage and Social Isolation

In “Breaking the Cycle of Social Interaction and Mental Illness,” we learned that there are two types of social isolation. Objective isolation is where a person is not involved in activities. Subjective isolation is the feeling or perception of lack of social support. In the right circumstances, Internet interaction has been found to alleviate stress and isolation through the development over time of meaningful relationships that are sometimes as deep as face-to-face relationships.

LaRose et al., in trying to explain the Internet Paradox (for an explanation click on the link below) discovered that the subjects studied were novice Internet users. Novice users who tended to be uncertain and unconfident in their abilities to use the computers and the Internet. Those users who had been on the Internet for two years or more, however, had learned the social niceties of communicating online and had formed some long-lasting friendships and associations. When those associations are formed, computer users have the feeling of belonging to a social network of like-minded individuals, of establishing meaningful friendships. Where social interaction on a personal level for many people can be a challenge, the Internet can open a gateway of opportunities to dispel loneliness and at least make people feel as though they have an outlet for expressing their feelings and getting feedback or support, or for just having fun.

This is particularly important for seniors.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

So true Darlene. I am sadly addicted to a mobile game called Angry Bird right now. My excuse as I make time to clear new levels...it is a stress reliever that allows me to tune out. I should be calling and connecting with friends, not playing that damn game. I am trying to get brave enough to keep a log online every time I play it. ...Maybe public embarrassment will cure me. ;-)

January 14, 2011 - 9:41am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

My ex is addicted to that one. I also have one particular game that I like to de-stress with. But there is a difference between de-stressing and using it to avoid human contact or procrastinating. Either of those can be dangerous.

Would be good to examine if there are any underlying issues that keeps you from wanting to socialize with people and retreat/hide in the game? Could it be time to find a new circle of friends?

January 14, 2011 - 10:17am

Hello Darlene, I created an account so I would not be anonymous anymore. I think the issue is based in quantity over quality. Just as you say, the world is at our fingertips As long as it is, I don't believe people value relationships. People are a commodity. Why work to create and keep a relationship when there are so many people at our fingertips? I don't agree with this concept but I know it is all around me. It is hard enough to find and connect with someone who you can be yourself without auditing your thoughts and feelings...I find tremendous value in that yet all I see and feel is people using tech as an excuse not to develop and practice thoughtful social skills.

January 13, 2011 - 9:34am
HERWriter (reply to lovemorefearless)

I agree with you. I think that point is proven by businesses that have now instituted email free days...to get people out of the cubicles and away from their email. If they want to ask for something or communicate with someone in the office, they have to actually go to that person.

It's all a matter of balance and perspective. The internet should not be a replacement for personal interaction. But for many it has become that. For those with medical or psychological issues that keep them from communicating with people face-to-face it's one thing...but for the rest of us we have no excuse.

January 13, 2011 - 10:04am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for sharing. I am concerned isolation is growing social epidemic and do believe internet use is connected to the issue along texting and mobile gaming. I blog about my own issues of isolation at socialbling.org

January 12, 2011 - 3:40pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

It's quite the conundrum isn't it. The Internet can help those who are isolated stay connected, but can keep people who would normally socialize face-to-face from doing just that...keeping them isolated.

I wonder though what we used to do without it. It seems so commonplace now to be connected with the other side of the world and what's going on there and meeting people I would never have known existed. The world seems so much bigger and at your fingertips.

January 12, 2011 - 6:37pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Emotional Health

Get Email Updates

Emotional Health Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!