Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. These sites should serve as a supplement, but not replacement for, face-to-face interaction, Cacioppo says. He compares connecting on a Web site to eating celery: “It feels good immediately, but it doesn’t give you the same sustenance,” he says. For people who feel satisfied and loved in their day-to-day life, social media can be a reassuring extension. For those who are already lonely, Facebook status updates are just a reminder of how much better everyone else is at making friends and having fun.
Michael J. Bugeja, a professor of communications at Iowa State university of Science and Technology and author of Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age (Oxford University Press, 2005), says that the encroachment of digital communication into our social lives can have amplify feelings of isolation. He describes texting or twittering in the presence of others as a “prescription for loneliness.” Such behavior, he says, sends the message that someone somewhere else is more important. “The human heart is suffering from lack of authentic interaction,” he says. “Just being able to engage genuinely and politely with your neighbors is a better fix than Xanax could ever affect for mental stability.”