THE LONELINESS EPIDEMIC: A DIGITAL DIVIDE
“Where once children spent several hours a day engaged in in-person social interaction, adding up to, in our estimation, 10,000 to 25,000 hours by the time they reached adulthood, for generations growing up in the Internet world that number is likely closer to 5,000 and for some, even as low as 1,500.” Sapien Labs
Telstra’s Talking Loneliness report (2021) found that one in two Gen Z (54%) and Millennials (51%) reported that they regularly feel lonely. This is a much higher figure than that of other generations. Despite being highly digitally connected, it’s been widely reported in the last number of years that Millennials and Gen Z are the ‘loneliest’ generations. Statistics from UKonwards discovered that around one in five 18-34 year-olds say that they have one or fewer close friends, but older generations typically have far more close friends. This can be attributed in part to the ‘digital divide’:
“While the digital world is seen as a social space, you usually don’t get the deeper connections that humans need (and get) from real life,” she says. “Ironically, these platforms that are designed to bring people closer together, can in turn, contribute to and heighten feelings of loneliness and fear of personal failure — all of which impact negatively on our mental health.” Psychologist Nancy Sokarno
Being online so much, means that friendships can be further complicated with the ability to easily ‘block’ and move on from relationships that enter tricky patches, without being forced to navigate a difficult conversation. Many young people are also now suffering with low resilience and a sense of social anxiety because they haven’t been exposed to the same social settings and experiences due to Covid-19. Reports show that there is a deterioration in the development of the ‘social self’ among younger cohorts today (also attributed to the decline in mental wellbeing), highlighting the importance in how society responds to support the development of future generations.