The Relationship Between Feelings of Loneliness and Social Media Addiction?

Feelings of loneliness in adolescence are frequent. How are they related to social media addiction? Keep reading to find out.
The Relationship Between Feelings of Loneliness and Social Media Addiction?
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 16 February, 2023

Feelings of loneliness often arise during adolescence. Many adolescents experience the painful sensation of feeling lonely, even when surrounded by peers, friends, and family members.

It sounds paradoxical: It seems that despite the fact that today’s youth have unlimited access to information and the ability to interact with people halfway around the world, they don’t feel accompanied.

It’s believed that the excessive use of social networks contributes to feelings of loneliness, leaving the premise that teenagers are increasingly connected, but they also feel increasingly lonely. How true is this idea? Is there a clear relationship between feelings of loneliness and social media addiction? We’ll reflect on this issue in the following article.

Feelings of loneliness in adolescence

As a first instance, it’s essential to differentiate loneliness as a feeling and as a fact. Loneliness as a fact is associated with isolation, with spending time alone. Therefore, one can feel satisfied or not.

However, feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily mean being alone. It’s more a matter of feeling misunderstood. It reflects an unsatisfied need for connection with other people. That’s to say, there’s an incompatibility between the quantity or quality of bonds that one desires and those that one has.

These feelings of loneliness significantly hinder well-being and can lead to other negative consequences that can even carry over into adulthood. They’re something like an overflowing presence of oneself.

Let’s not forget that during adolescence, the peer group acquires a more than relevant value, as it facilitates the development and reconfirmation of identity, outside the family context. Children progressively distance themselves from their families while strengthening the bond with their peers.

Although adolescents need this process of gaining autonomy and independence, they sometimes find it difficult to adapt to these changes. They often feel that they “don’t fit in”, which leads to distress and frustration. A poor or deficient social life has an impact on the emotional sphere, weakening self-esteem and self-confidence.

Social media addiction

A teenager using a cell phone and a laptop computer at the same time.
Often, social networks are seen by teenagers as an escape from reality.

A good part of teenagers’ activities happens or is intercepted by the digital space. Social networks such as Instagram, TikTok, or Twitch have become sites that young people visit several times a day.

When we talk about internet addiction, we’re referring to the problematic use of social networks. It’s a behavioral addiction that doesn’t involve any chemical substance. In this case, the main diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • Loss of control over the activity. It’s really difficult to stop logging on to social networks, either to interact or simply to observe as a spectator.
  • The activity becomes a priority: Surfing the internet becomes the most important activity and dominates thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Withdrawal syndrome: When the activity is interrupted, unpleasant emotional or physical signs appear, such as anxiety, irritability, tachycardia, anger, or frustration.
  • Other aspects of life are neglected: Conflicts begin to appear in the person’s academic, social, or family life.

It’s clear that the evolution of new technologies has changed the whole world and, particularly, the way we relate to others. In itself, social networks are neither good nor bad, but depending on how they’re used, they can be beneficial or detrimental.

As explained by Echeburúa and Corral , any normal pleasurable behavior is susceptible to becoming an addictive behavior.

Adolescence: Feelings of loneliness and excessive use of social networks

A teen sitting on a bench looking at social media.
In the long run, problems managing loneliness will only accumulate and worsen if a way out isn’t sought.

There are different research studies and positions regarding the supposed relationship between Internet addiction and feelings of loneliness in adolescents. Although the impact that social networks have on the social area of young people is overwhelming, the association with loneliness isn’t so evident.

On the one hand, a study published in the Hispanic Journal for the Analysis of Social Networks has concluded that feelings of loneliness increase as the use of social networks increases and vice versa. At the same time, excessive internet use tends to increase other unpleasant feelings such as boredom and confusion.

However, other research by Silvia Inga Reyes didn’t find a significant relationship between these two aspects. In fact, she found that adolescents who feel lonely and consider their interpersonal relationships unsatisfactory find some satisfaction in connecting with others through social networks. There, many people find interesting spaces to develop their social life and thus enhance their communication skills.

For further reflection

The apparent relationship between feelings of loneliness and the abusive use of social networks in adolescence isn’t so clear-cut. While many adolescents manage to alleviate this feeling by resorting to virtual connection, other young people suffer negative consequences when surfing the Internet, feeling increasingly lonely.

To continue shedding light on this issue, it’s important to continue conducting representative research that provides valuable information regarding this situation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Echeburúa, E. y Corral, P. (1994). Adicciones psicológicas: más allá de la metáfora. Clínica y Salud, 5, 251-258.
  • Igna Reyes, S. (2020). Adicción a redes sociales, cansancio emocional y sentimiento de soledad en jóvenes universitarios. Trabajo de investigación para optar el Grado Académico de Bachiller en Psicología. Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola. Lima, Perú.
  • Pérez, M. & Quiroga, A. (2019). Uso compulsivo de sitios de networking, sensación de soledad y comparación social en jóvenes. Revista Hispana para el Análisis de
    Redes Sociales, 30(1), 68-78.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.