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Is Virtual Contact a Good Substitute for Face-To-Face Interaction?

Virtual contact offers convenience and accessibility, bridging distances in an instant. While it can't fully replicate the warmth and nuance of face-to-face interaction, it's a powerful tool for maintaining connections in our fast-paced world. Yet, can it truly satisfy our innate need for human touch and presence? Join us as we delve deeper into the essence of human connection.

The internet is often credited with bringing the world closer together, but a recent study found that for some older adults, it has had the opposite effect. The study, which analyzed data from the United States and the United Kingdom, found that socializing online with family and friends during the COVID-19 lockdowns made many over-60-year-olds feel more lonely than having no contact at all.

"We were surprised by the finding that an older person who had only virtual contact during lockdown experienced greater loneliness and negative mental health impacts than an older person who had no contact with other people at all,” said study co-author Dr. Yang Hu of Lancaster University.

Researchers found that virtual contact can cause older adults to feel lonelier than having no interaction at all.
Researchers found that virtual contact can cause older adults to feel lonelier than having no interaction at all.

Hu explained that part of the reason for older people's feelings of disconnect was unfamiliarity with the software. But even when that was not the issue, many people ended up feeling more stress from talking online than they had from simply being alone. "Extensive exposure to digital means of communication can also cause burnout," Hu said.

Social networking: good or bad?

  • The average person will spend more than five years of his or her life using social media.

  • Though against the rules, 5 million Facebook accounts are owned by kids under the age of 10.

  • Socializing online accounts for 22 percent of internet usage.

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    • Researchers found that virtual contact can cause older adults to feel lonelier than having no interaction at all.
      Researchers found that virtual contact can cause older adults to feel lonelier than having no interaction at all.