A new article in The Atlantic magazine asks a big question. Is Facebook — the social networking giant with 845 million users around the globe — actually making people feel lonelier? We explore the possible paradox that is Facebook. What implications does the site carry for the state of our culture?

Stephen Marche, author of the article "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" in The Atlantic

  • Isokratia

    I never feel lonely, but then I don’t use Facebook.

    I listened to a Morning Stories podcast recently about an illegal alien
    from Brazil who complained that Americans are impersonal, which is why she wanted to go back home. She said “they create a wall. You
    cannot see inside.”
    Here is the link:

    I think services like Facebook are meant to capitalize — literally — on the loneliness that is manufactured by Americans’ putting up a wall. Zuckerberg had taken courses in Psychology so he surely knew something about our culture’s defects. Facebook does two things: It makes people feel like they have new friends on Facebook, or better friends, when it’s actually not true, and it makes people envious of others who appear to have more of these fake friends.

    Cue South Park episode…

  • BC

    I think by only interacting online makes people lonely. They are exclusively part of the cyberspace world instead of tangible realities

  • forumfan

    I can’t wait to hear the discussion! I have read this article. A very important topic, especially for our teens. “Self-presentation on facebook is…possessed of a phony nonchalance that eliminates even the potential for spontaneity. (‘Look how I casually threw up these 3 photos from that party at which I took 300 photos.’)

    I feel very strongly that Facebook fosters narcissism among teens — a lack of empathy — and intense competition to keep up with a contrived notion of what a normal teen does, is, and looks like. This in turn is causing terrible depression among teens, because after just a moment’s viewing, a teen is very often left feeling inadequate. My teen recently came to me in tears asking how she can ever measure up to the other kids who post accomplishments several times a day. Older users have life experience which allow us to see through the carefully constructed images. We are more skeptical. But teens take all they see at “face” value. And then they berate themselves because they don’t measure up to the invented or exaggerated profile of another.

    “A connection is not the same as a bond…” Teenagers sitting next to each other in a carpool vehicle no longer interact and develop friendships. Each is facebooking people who are not there. Teenagers at parties are not present to each other, they are facebooking people who are not present. I’ve had teens exit my car, smart phone in-hand, and not look up to say goodbye and thank you. Narcissism.

    I went swimming at my local community pool recently and was appalled to see a middle-aged couple running around the pool strutting and posing in front of their smart phone cameras. They had no sense of personal space, backing up to lapswimmers, etc. This would never have been socially acceptable before Facebook. Incredibly narcissistic – they did not interact with anyone else there (unusual), but rather were exploiting others there as personal props. Very anti-social to those within close proximity all to create a very social image.

  • Guest

    No, I don’t “like” Facebook at all and I refuse to use it because it treats me like a commodity instead of a person. Nonetheless, loneliness is an existential condition for which individuals must accept responsibility.  There are 7 billion people crowding the planet.  If we’re lonely, it is because we choose to be.

    • Berkeleydi

      My Loneliness is not a chosen existential state of no exit but comes from out-living relationship networks __family, husbands, friends, the decreased bandwidth of age and the result of poor economic decisions. No human except Christ if you believe, consciously choses suffering.

  • Gimpel Tandon

    I’m somewhat autistic, and neither use Facebook nor have any particular need to be around people, who don’t give me enough (that I can perceive) to make it worth being around it—the metaphorical cookies people give each other to smooth over their interrelationships don’t signify to me, and so all I feel are the rough or jagged edges.

    I’m sorry so many are lonely, if they are, but for me being away from people is a definite relief; I’m just sorry that my difficulties in dealing with people has made it impossible to earn enough money to live without them.

    • olive

      Maybe focus on “giving” instead of “receiving” (I’m referring to your “who don’t give me enough”).  I don’t know you, but this approach works for me…

  • Facebook (like any other tool) is what you make of it. If you use it as a substitute for your real life, you are going to be lonely and unfulfilled.  If you use it as a social network, a way to keep in touch with friends and family far away, or to strengthen the bonds with people you see frequently, it will be a positive in your life.

    I work from home and have three small children.  There are some days I don’t even leave my house because of my lifestyle.  Facebook (and other social networking sites) make that bearable, instead of the prison it would have been a couple of generations ago.  But of course, I’m a person who believes in moderation and I take care not to get carried away with online stuff.  I put the phone/computer down and deal with my life first.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    On social disintegration and reinventing oneself with regard to facebook pages: I have actually read a comment on my hometown’s facebook page where someone actually said they moved away to escape people who treated her poorly and that on facebook people tracked her down to make her feel like an outsider all over again. 

  • Mike

    facebook is the fastfood i used to love to eat, but now it just gives me a stomach ache -mike

  • Kaiya

    I think the underlying issue is the need that a majority of us have for acceptance and admiration from others. It has become like a drug for us as a society. Many people feel depressed after looking at other peoples “wonderful” lives on Facebook because we have been conditioned to compare ourselves to others

  • James Ivey

    I’d like to hear a bit more about what loneliness is.  Stephen mentioned that living alone isn’t necessarily lonely.  I live alone, work alone at a home office, and feel much less lonely than I did when I was married.

  • Tim, Berkeley

    It is *building* and maintaining our own personal sense of *society* where the internet falls short.  It doesn’t matter how many connections one can now make if one is neglecting the nurture of society.  The internet is a world of ideas and information exchange – not even a prelude to social contact.  The internet probably has enhanced relationships that we wish to keep at arm’s length, ironically, but not those relationships we value the most.

  • online social networks are fantastic platforms for re-connecting with long lost friends and family, for staying in touch with those who live far away. but this way of connecting and sharing has become so automatic that it has affected, and in some ways replaced, the way that we socialize locally.  there’s definitely a trend in tech right now to provide technology that connects people offline. ‘s platform is launched in LA and SF and is connecting friends offline around casual social activities. is connecting people over meals.  other startups are entering the space at a rapid pace. 

    These ideas, this need to reintroduce people to their social lives, clearly points to some problem, whether or not you agree it’s a health crisis.

  • Natasha

    When I see people’s happy lifes on Facebook I feel envious and even more isolated it makes me doubt whether I should’ve made different choices and stayed with the pack. Secondly most people use Facebook post trivial irrelevant things, how is that useful to the advancement of humanity?

  • Annie

    it is my experience that Facebook allows my extroverted friends to brag and my introverted friends to be extroverted….allowing them to appear to have a different personality than they are face to face …

  • Anouk Jorgensen

    I am a 17 years old, both social and anti social at times, but I find that practically everytime I go on facebook, I am more and more disgusted by my generation. And feel that facebook has become less of a social networking site, but instead a way to judge others.

    • My2Percent

      “…a way to judge others.”  Agreed.  Just like in real life.  Happy places and smiling faces.  I’m 55, an introvert, and find Google+ more appealing.

  • aren’t loneliness and boredom often the stimulus for art? are not most artists, philosophers, etc. pretty lonely people. you guys just mentioned william carlos williams a minute ago. all the that good old fashioned sociability drove him kind of crazy. he would have loved facebook. also, perhaps mention the book “don’t let me be lonely” claudia rankine. it’s beautiful.

  • Margoport

    Reminds me of of “the Christmas Letter”. Communicates all of wonderful things you’ve done. But not all of complex up and downs of your real life that are usually communicated in person.
    Margo Port

  • Steve

    Facebook lets people willingly give up any privacy that they possess.

  • Blairtaffuri

    I posted a comedy piece about the loneliness of Facebook called The Desperate HUNCHBACK on my you tube site called thelorijason. A lot of people passed it around. Feeling thatthe character captured exactly how they feel

  • Diana

    The privacy concerns stemming from Facebook and other online activity are distinctly different than from watching television!  They’re collecting personal information, not just  ‘extracting’ behavior.  The guest saying he doesn’t understand why social media is attacked for privacy concerns is incomprehensible.

  • Hank Roberts

    Your guest completely contradicts himself.
    People need to reinvent themselves, leave old personas behind — and commercial tracking prevents this even more effectively than Facebook identification.
    People want to embrace contradictions — but not have all our personal  contradictions tracked and displayed or used to send us advertising.
    Good grief, be consistent here.

  • Diana

    Would be good to have Sherry Turkle on the program on this subject.

    • Tim

       I second!

  • I love all the latest technologies – laptop computers, smartphones, social media, etc., but I am concerned with how these technologies often take precedence over direct human interaction. When I am with some people, I feel that I have to compete with their Facebook feeds, email and text messaging and that I am just another stimulus among many other stimuli to which they can direct their attention. If I don’t prove as interesting as what they can experience on their iPhones, I am simply ignored in favor of other available sources of information.


  • Cyber-interfaces allow an imaginative and plastic expressive capacity to all who join and interact. The notion that ‘one must be oneself’ therein is not only false, but flies in the face of years of impersonation anecdotes. Facebook is not any different in its facilitation of this role-playing activity, as Annie and others surely have commented.

  • Blairtaffuri

    Truly my piece called The Desperate Hunchback on my you tube called thelorijason REALLY captures the frustration loneliness , desperation. And anger of Facebook. … you will not be disappointed. its a comedy and short. And you will feel a lot better and less lonely after you watch it….

    • Mustyle

      Hi, I saw the video, you suggest, thanks for it. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT LIFE, BUT I CAN SEE HOW PEOPLE CAN EASILY BECOME DEPENDENT ON THE MACHINE. We humans were born to move, walk, hunt, run, and jump. Also we are a social animal. My heart goes to those millions of domestic pets that have owners who lives them alone all day long, those owners that make their pet pay for their own lonliness. Unfortunatelly we create our own lonliness….I learned to be my own best friend and keep myself company without Facebook. But than again, I am not alone I have myself. Awasome comments, thank you.

  • ZucksDog

    Thanks for taking my call today. My second point about anonymity was well illustrated by Peter Steiner in the New Yorker in 1993, the year I started using the internet:

    Fast forward 20-years and now we have proof that almost a billion internet users are definitely NOT dogs. We have their real names and mug shots from Facebook along with a graph of their family relationships. When coupled with someone’s CV from LinkedIn or Tweets or Foursquare check ins, it’s very easy to build a relatively complete picture of those nearly 1 billion people: where they live, work, eat, shop, etc. as well as what they say and to whom they say it.

    Since Facebook is so dominant, many web and mobile sites are moving to Facebook-powered authentication. So, more and more, everything you say and do online will be linked back to your Facebook profile, making it much harder to hide your real identity. That makes it hard to really take the gloves off and say horrible, violent, threatening things. After all, how likely are you to threaten my family if I know where you work, where you go to church and where your kids go to school?

    Based on this, I would like to think that the days of anonymous internet trolls and their vitriol might finally be coming to an end, allowing the internet to enable us to grow more in touch with our humanity rather than the other way around.

  • Dhianna

    I woke up alone this morning in the cottage where I live alone and turned the radio on to hear Michael Krasny  say”… discussing Loneliness.”
    “I Don’t need This,” was my first reaction and I thought about turning it off… but I listened– & joined briefly in on-air community alleviating loneliness,  isolation, loneliness, solitude, whatever it is, you want to call it.  Sometimes I go to a coffee shops in hoping of something like challenging 18th century cultured coffee-house conversation or just basic human contact & find people sit alone with laptops and virtual facebook friends.

  • What ever it is, That many users – is making investors hand over truck loads of money to the current owners as a part of the IPO scam.

  • Steven Lewis

    I had to stop. It was making me feel sad and stressed. I had
    a constant low level anxiety about whether people would like or comment on my
    content. I learned two things. (1) People on facebook do not appreciate a photo
    essay on Icelandic home libraries (I thought this content was quite the find)
    and (2) Facebook makes me sad and that’s makes me want to buy more stuff to
    attain false happiness. Facebook, it isolates while stoking the fire of narcissism,
    the perfect recipe for creating ravenous consumers. The march towards the commoditization
    of the human subject continues.   

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