When was the last time that you accessed social media? This morning? An hour ago? 30 seconds, right before you clicked on this article? What did you use it for? Did you actually post something, or comment on someone else's post? Or are you a perennial lurker; one of the people with numerous 'friends' who looks but rarely 'speaks'? Whatever it is you were doing on Twitter or Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, I'm willing to bet it had very little to do with real socialisation; that you weren't organising a reunion, making a date to catch up over coffee, or even just having a chat.
Why am I so certain about this? Because according to our latest research at Loose Ends, one in five people say they actively socialise less since signing up for a social media account. And the more accounts you have, the less likely you are to get up and do something about it.
Don't get me wrong; I use social media as much as the next man and I am, at heart, a fan, but I find it depressing that it's become something of a contradiction in terms. A quarter of social media users only socialise once a month, and they're not generally using a digital platform to arrange it. Rather than being the catalyst for social gatherings and fun times, as was originally intended, social media now provides us all with an excuse not to see each other.
Why do I need to go to the effort of meeting an old colleague at a pub for a beer when one look at Facebook lets me see how he's doing? That school reunion I was thinking about can wait; all but a few of them are openly online, so I can foster my envy or quietly gloat without them even knowing that I've looked at their profile! As for that cinema visit, well, you know, I could go, but the film will be on Netflix, Amazon, Apple or Sky in a couple of weeks and I'll my post opinions about it on Twitter in a witty 140 characters or less...
And that is my gripe with social media. I secretly quite like the silly memes, jokes and animal videos. What really annoys me though, is the fact that social media seems to be replacing the social. The physical act of going out and spending time with people you like.
The likelihood is that if you're one of the millions with three or more social accounts, you'll typically be going a fortnight or more between actually seeing friends. What's more, although you'll be using your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat accounts in lieu of social activity, there's a good chance that you won't even be engaging with them. More than a third (36.3%) of users will commonly go more than 24 hours without posting a status update, comment, or even 'liking' someone else's post. I don't know, but I find that there's something almost anti-social about that.
I created the Loose Ends app because I felt that I wasn't spending enough time with my friends. Despite ostensibly having hundreds of friends, I didn't see much of them. Instead I scrolled through social media feeds, ordered pizza and watched Netflix.
With the detrimental effects of loneliness becoming ever-more apparent, influencing numerous areas of physical and mental health as it does, the fact that 24% of social media users only see their friends on a monthly basis is a worrying trend. Don't you think it's time that social media started to be just that? Social.
Daniel Lewis is founder of Loose Ends App.Suggest a correction