Do the seemingly limitless interaction opportunities provided by social networks like Facebook make us lonelier? It seems contradictory at first, but as Facebook has grown to over 800,000,000 active monthly users, it's a question that has certainly been floated more than once. The Atlantic has just published an in-depth report on the subject that starts with explaining how loneliness has become an epidemic, with more Americans than ever living alone (27 percent) and a staggering 25 percent of Americans in 2010 saying they have no one to confide in — an increase from 10 percent in 1985.
"We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information."
How is Facebook contributing to this increase? Well, it would appear that the oversharing facilitated by the service stands at the heart of the matter. Products like "frictionless sharing" that pump out a constant stream of your daily actions result in users having nearly no downtime. As argued in The Atlantic, people are now constantly concerned about outward appearances and relentlessly bombarded with information on those around them. It's almost like a competition.
"People are bringing their old friends, and feelings of loneliness or connectedness, to Facebook."
However, if the way people used Facebook changed, they might get more out of the service. If people used the internet as the new medium to communicate with friends instead of bringing in old memories (usage that's encouraged by the new Timeline), it's clear that Facebook could reduce loneliness. Whether or not you agree with this analysis is another matter altogether, but the suggestion is that as we continue to adapt to the communication methods provided by Facebook, we'll learn how to properly integrate it into our lives and strike whatever balance is necessary.