How Does Connectivity Drive Loneliness?
Loneliness isn't just a fleeting feeling, leaving us sad for a few hours to a few days. Research in recent years suggests that for many people loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being.
Now a nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna underscores that. It finds that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.
Using one of the best-known tools for measuring loneliness — the UCLA Loneliness Scale — Cigna surveyed 20,000 adults online across the country ages 18 and above. The UCLA tool uses a series of statements and a formula to calculate a loneliness score based on responses. People scoring between 20 and 80 on the UCLA scale are considered lonely, with a higher score suggesting a greater level of loneliness and social isolation.
More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them "are not necessarily with them." And 2 in 5 felt like "they lack companionship," that their "relationships aren't meaningful" and that they "are isolated from others."
Members of Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, had an overall loneliness score of 48.3. Millennials, just a little bit older, scored 45.3. By comparison, baby boomers scored 42.4. The Greatest Generation, people ages 72 and above, had a score of 38.6 on the loneliness scale.
I have the honor of serving on the board of a campus ministry in Chattanooga. A couple of years ago, as the ministry prepared for the next freshman class to arrive, we discussed how that batch of students marked the first whose whole lives had taken place on social media. They are Generation Z.
When we talk about social media, we often talk about growing our connections, friends, & followers. But those are misleading terms. What makes a true connection or friend?
In recent years, along with the rise of messaging apps, social media has transformed from a one-to-many medium to a one-to-one-many-times medium. As such, brands have been challenged with the need to make meaningful connections, in the truest sense of the word, with their customers.
As it turns out, what's best for brands is also best for customers:
...Holt-Lunstad says that previous research shows that how people use social media determine's its influence on one's sense of isolation.
"If you're passively using it, if you're just scrolling feeds, that's associated with more negative effects," she says. "But if you're using it to reach out and connect to people to facilitate other kinds of [in-person] interactions, it's associated with more positive effects."
How are you connecting with people online? Are you talking to them or with them? Are you listening to them or just talking? What would a friend do?
People are more connected now than ever in the history of humanity. The irony of having to ask these questions is not lost on me. May we as marketers, and as humans, not forget what it looks like to connect with others.