London: Having loads of friends on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is no cure for loneliness, a new study has revealed.

In fact, a report for the Australia Institute says lonely people may use social media to find social support, but they have fewer Facebook friends and count fewer of them as “real friends”.

According to Australia Institute director and report author David Baker, quality, not quantity, of social connections is critical in determining loneliness.

He says social media shouldn’t be treated as a cure for loneliness, and online social contact may in fact mask real social disconnection.

“Given the rapid increase in the use of social media and the government’s policy focus on ‘social inclusion’, there is a risk that social networking sites may be overpromoted, especially to younger people,” the Daily Telegraph quoted Baker as saying.

The report found that people who were not lonely reported greater quality in social networking connections, while more than 50 percent of lonely people counted less than a third of their Facebook friends as real friends.

On a positive note, lonely social media users were proactively using social media to address their isolation.

The study, which used data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey as well as an online survey of 1384 people between 2001 and 2009, reported an increase in contact with family and friends since the advent of the technology.

Therefore, the moral of the study can be summed up as – Get out more. Turn off the computer. Make real-life friends and meet up in the real world. Then update your Facebook status while you’re sitting across from them.


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