Season 1, Episode 2: Social Media with Patrick Janelle, Sydney Engelberg, and More
January 22, 2016
Three months ago, Australian teenager Essena O’Neill, who had more than half a million followers on Instagram, quit social media altogether. She left a handful of Instagram posts and changed the captions to teach other teens that “living in a 3D world” is much better than obsessing over photos presenting “contrived perfection made to get attention.”
“I was so hungry for social media validation,” she wrote. “Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects.”
This detachment from “real life” was, I imagine, a lonely feeling. Even if I’m wrong, a lot has been written about social media and loneliness, both before and after the O’Neill episode. As one Huffington Post writer put it, “technology has distracted us from the age-old truths of what is most important—true friends whom we can be ourselves in front of, rather than our carefully scripted online persona.”
Does this quote ring true for others?
I first pose this question to Patrick Janelle (pictured), also known as @guynamedpatrick on Instagram. He may have 450 thousand followers on Instagram, but he gets just as lonely as you do. Or as I do. Or as anyone does.
Molly Guy, owner of bridal showroom Stone Fox Bride, also has a large social media following, and while it’s helpful for promoting her business, she doesn’t deny that the perfect world presented on Instagram, for example, has its drawbacks. “The world of social media is not an intimate world,” she says. (PS. Sorry for the ringing phone. Molly is a busy woman!)
Kat Kinsman, editor at large of Tasting Table and the author of Hi, Anxiety, will be on a future episode dealing with loneliness and mental illness, but I had to include in this episode what she said about the intimacy that can sometimes only come from the channels social media provides us. “Strangers come to me in a really vulnerable way,” she says of people who reach out to her about dealing with anxiety. “Because there isn’t the physical awkwardness of meeting over coffee, we can go right to the headspace. There aren’t these layers between us.”
In the more academic turn that this episode takes, Sydney Engelberg, a professor at both the Hebrew University and Ono Academic College in Jerusalem, makes the case that the rise in social media use and the rise in loneliness are directly related. He wrote a three-part series on the loneliness of social media on Psychology Today after this photo of him went viral; listen to hear him connect the dots.
Finally, Anna Caltabiano is only in her freshman year at Brown, but she’s done a lot of thinking on this topic. “At times social media can create a dangerous illusion of being connected,” she wrote on the Huffington Post.
#02 Social Media: Patrick Janelle, Molly Guy, Kat Kinsman, Sydney Engelberg, and Anna Caltabiano by The Lonely Hour