Does digital communication affect our sense of belonging?
by Stephanie Dutchen
Place the winky face emoticon where you think it best fits: Social media makes you feel lonely. Social media makes you feel less alone. Smartphone use damages relationships and facilitates ideological echo chambers. Smartphone use strengthens bonds with others and exposes us to more diverse opinions.
According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of U.S. adults own smartphones and three-quarters of teens own or have access to one. Ninety-two percent of teens go online daily, 24 percent of them “almost constantly.” Ninety percent of teens and 65 percent of adults use social media.
As online life grows and headlines speculate about whether social media will be the downfall or the savior of human civilization, researchers struggle to understand how digitally mediating our interactions deepens or damages our sense of belonging, which in turn could influence the health of individuals, relationships, and communities.
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