There is a theory that with technological advances, loneliness has increased in today’s society. Cell phones, in particular, promote loneliness because of less face to face interaction, they can be addictive and lead to depression, even though cell phones can be used to initiate social interaction. Cellphones are supposed to connect us and make communication easier, but the opposite may be happening.
Cellphones are now smart phones. In addition to basic call and text functions, cellphones can connect to the internet and social media. With the surging popularity of social media, cellphones can give a user a virtual feeling of being in a room full of people. When the faces are in your hands, the actual need for face to face interaction can decrease for some. The frequent use of non-face-to-face communication leads to poor social skills which then results in loneliness (Penn State, 2014). This may be because mobile communication is being used as a primary means of communication in individual’s lives instead of a means to schedule face to face time with family and friends (Penn State, 2014). Social media fulfills an individual’s visualization of a friend or family member by showing them what they are up to through a screen. This means that they do not need to leave the comfort of their home to actually go and see them or spend time with them. This behavior isolates an individual, whether they are doing it consciously or not.
Since the introduction of the cellphone, it has been questioned if the device could be abused and if it could lead to addiction. We know now that this is true. Cellphone use can be addictive. With smartphones capability to connect to the internet and social media, the addictiveness and allure of the cellphone has increased. Smartphone dependence has similar effects on the brain like individuals who suffer from opioid addiction (Daily Mail, 2018). Erik Peper, a professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University says, “The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connection in the brain similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief.” (Daily Mail, 2018). In addition to negative neurological effects, researchers have found that people who are dependent on their phones tend to feel lonely, isolated, depressed and more anxious than their peers (Daily Mail, 2018). Many who individuals who addicted to their cellphones suffer from low self-esteem and poor social relations, which makes them believe that they should be in constant contact with others (Babadi-Akashe, 2014). Anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, insomnia and digestive issues are the result of what is called mobile phone silence (Babadi-Akashe, 2014).
Depression, along with other mental health issues, can be the result of cellphone addiction. Depression is also related with loneliness. Humans are a social species that require safe, secure social environments to survive (Mushtaq, 2014). Mental health and physical well-being is dependent on satisfying social relationships (Mushtaq, 2014). Impaired social relationships and a dysfunctional social life can lead to loneliness (Mushtaq, 2014). People who suffer from loneliness also exhibit depressive symptoms as they are likely to be less happy, less satisfied and more pessimistic (Mushtaq, 2014). Helplessness and pain is associated with both depression and loneliness (Mushtaq, 2014). Physical well-being, along with mental health, is severely impacted by stress caused by loneliness, resulting in low grade peripheral inflammation (Mushtaq, 2014). Low grade peripheral inflammation is link to inflammatory diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases (Mushtaq, 2014). Individuals who suffer from depression are not likely to engage in social behavior due to the symptoms of the disorder.
Despite the evidence of cellphones contributing to loneliness, they are communication devices. Cellphones can be used to connect with friends and family to arrange meet ups (face to face interaction). Social media on cellphones can lead users to social events due to news and events being posted on various platforms. Social media can even be used to connect with new people and schedule face to face interaction with them. Although these things are true, people are still facing loneliness in the age of technology. Cellphone addiction, the depression that can be caused and the decreased need for face to face interaction due to virtual interaction being fulfilled still leaves some with loneliness. In order to combat this screen time could be limited, social media use can be decreased and using the phone to actually arrange face to face interaction can eliminate issue of loneliness. However, it is not that simple if an individual is dealing with low self-esteem, social anxiety, health or mental issues that were pre-existing or have begun because of cellphone usage and/or loneliness. Further studies that produce solutions are needed to combat the loneliness that technology can cause.