The loneliness paradox: Tech & social media make us feel more alone than ever

Constant connections on services like Facebook and Instagram can amplify our isolation in unexpected ways

You’ve had a social day. Two hundred Facebook friends posted birthday messages, your video of Mr. Meow shredding the toilet paper stash got dozens of retweets, and all the compliments on your latest Instagram selfie have you strutting with an extra swagger. Still, you can’t help but notice an ache that can only be described as loneliness.

That we feel this way even when hyperconnected might seem like a contradiction. But the facts are clear: Constant virtual connections can often amplify the feeling of loneliness.

“Internet-related technologies are great at giving us the perception of connectedness,” says Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a Stanford University psychiatrist who’s written about the intersection of psychology and tech. The truth, he says, is the time and energy spent on social media’s countless connections may be happening at the expense of more rooted, genuinely supportive and truly close relationships.

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Loneliness, that most universal human condition, existed long before we could compare follower counts, of course. “Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man,” wrote the novelist Thomas Wolfe. But it’s impacting an increasing number of people, according to studies, with some even warning of a loneliness epidemic. At least one scientist is working on a pill to ease its pain.

Read more: cnet