Social Isolation in Facebook Group Chats

“In the digital age, information is power. The Internet is the great equalizer for those who are seeking to broaden their communities and improve their lives” (Rappler, 2016). Electronic social networks, like Messenger, WhatsApp, and other networking sites have contributed a large portion for an easy dissemination of information, and at the same time can negatively generate isolation to one member from the group. Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company, founded by Mark Zuckerberg in the year 2004 of February. As Facebook introduces Facebook chat in 2008 they revamp the app and resulted from what we have known, Messenger in 2011. (Stenovec, 2014). Based from Rappler’s ‘A profile of Internet users in the Philippines’ stated that the Philippines had 47% active users in social media and the time people spent online are 3.2 hours (on mobiles) and 5.2 hours (on desktop and tablet).

Facebook messenger or known as Messenger is a common type of social online, were most of its participants stay connected despite of each different settings and most conveniently, its timeless of giving information. Though it was for the good of fast communication, there are instances where people tend to be satisfied using an electronic device rather than having a conversation face-to-face with that friend. Being focused on the internet will lead to 'negative moods', were causes like schizophrenia which may cause a change in person personality by having hallucinations, delusional, and impaired ability to function. However, in using the internet people are 'ambivalent' regarding its internet usage. (Gil-or, 2011)

Silliman University is one of the competitive private school in the Philippines who offers free WIFI connections in-campus in all most 8,000 more students. In terms of disseminating group chats among students, one of the common and used social app of Silliman Senior High students is Facebook messenger or mostly known as Messenger. Facebook group chat is a way for every group member to be informed of the tasked assigned to them. As students are getting more hooked up of using Facebook group chat as a form of disseminating information in group activities, there are times when people lack the audacity to have direct conversation to the real person itself. If students are more into using social online group, it could impact the students negatively which may lead to unproductiveness, cyberbullying, and the growing need for attention. Thus, Facebook’s group chat feature increases the likelihood of social isolation among the Silliman Senior High Students.

Sherry Turkle (2011) in her book Alone Together she states:

The technology has become like a phantom limb, it is so much a part of them. These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them. And they are among the first to grow up not necessarily thinking of simulation as second best. All of this makes them fluent with technology but brings a set of new insecurities (p. 17)

This research paper should not be interpreted to make people turn away from social media, but rather to understand the unknown factors that cause social isolation among the youth and how to best use social media, in particular, Facebook’s group chat since it is the most commonly used application by the Silliman Senior High students. The first part will talk about the current trends among the youth, which acts as a stimulator. The second part talks about the impacts of the trends on the youth, both positively and negatively. The third part will talk about the results and recommendations to lessen the likelihood of social isolation among the students.

Trends are defined to be a certain subject or fad that becomes popular for a certain period of time. It could either be a style in fashion such as ripped jeans or baggy shirts, or even as a sort of entertainment like K-Pop, memes, or ridiculous challenges like the Momo challenge, ice-bucket challenge, etc. Majority of society, particularly the youth, reacts to these trends as a stimuli and would follow whatever is the latest and what is considered the most favourable and well-liked thing going around.

The two most notable features in Facebook, or in Messenger, that are popular and most used among the youth are (1) Facebook's Messenger Day and (2) Facebook Group Chat.

Facebook’s Messenger Day is a way for individuals to share about the happenings in—as the name suggests—their day through pictures and/or videos and it will disappear after 24 hours. It is much similar to Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories where you can edit the photos/videos, add filters and texts and etc.

This is highly popular among the youth as it is an easy way to let their friends know the interesting events that go about in their day, or maybe even the simplest of task they are doing such as homework, eating a meal, etc. They look forward to the “reacts” given to their stories as it gives them a sense of pleasure, and it can even act as a conversation starter.

Facebook group chat is one of the ways, and one of the fastest, for individuals with common interests to interact and bond. It is a feature that allows users to talk to several people in a single chat room where they can discuss issues, plan events, share photos and/or videos that pertain to their interests. Video and voice chatting is also an option that can accommodate about 50 users at the same time. Games can be played as well where people can challenge to beat the highest score or to answer questions about one another. Anyone can make a group chat and add people of their choosing.

Group chats are commonly used among the youth for the pleasure of socialising with friends and for school purposes as it is the most convenient and efficient mode of communication nowadays with benefiting features. (Nield, 2016)

The digital world of social media has completely changed the dynamics of communication making it travel much faster than it did in the past where one would have to wait weeks for a letter in a mail, or a phone call that is guaranteed to be answered by a different person instead of the person whom the call was intended for. Now, people can send messages directly to another in a matter of seconds, and make a direct phone call or even a video call.

Because means of communication are becoming faster than ever and more efficient than it once was, the world comes smaller and smaller. (Edwards, 2015). The number of people that everyone can interact with has grown exponentially, allowing users to converse with others from different countries. Social media has allowed the barriers between worlds to crumble down, opening gateways for new information to be shared, for new friendships, and for new opportunities.

Social networking sites has also become a place where one can keep updated on current happenings of the world. Major news are shared through platforms such as Twitter and Facebook where it is guaranteed to be seen by hundreds of dozens of people which would then lead to retweets or shares. Not only that, but social media also allows the spread of issues that are usually looked over by media—it gives a voice to the voiceless. (Treyvaud, 2017). Awareness of minorities, advocation for human and equal rights, and the cries to save our planet from climate change are just a few examples of these issues that have finally come to light since the rise of social media. Social media has become a platform for people to speak freely and express themselves and their ideas.

Again, because social media makes means of communication faster where new information can be digested in a matter of seconds and new connections can be made, it can become addictive. Browsing through online platforms or chatting with friends can become so time-consuming which would eventually lead to neglecting of responsibilities. (Chester, et. al, 2014) Majority of internet users fall victim to this, and teenagers, being relatively part of the majority of internet users, are really no different.

Cyberbullying is also a huge and ongoing issue in social media. Because people hide behind screens and would not have to deal with other people face-to-face, they can freely speak their mind and insult whoever they choose but still remain anonymous. It is just as bad as physical bullying since words have the same, if not more, impact. It can still ruin a person and their mental health, and yet, there are people who gain a sense a pleasure in being offensive.

In relation to free speech, because social media offers a platform for everyone to share their thoughts, people do, in fact, share their thoughts perhaps a little bit too much. Oversharing is not uncommon in social media sites and there are some people who actually gain money from oversharing (social media influencers, YouTubers), but other people who do not have the luck of gaining income instead want to gain the attention of friends, followers, everyone. The growing need of attention is a dangerous thing as it can even lead to deception, doing dangerous challenges, etc. just for the sake of gaining views and likes or for a few seconds of fame. The faster the communication gets, the more people need the validation and when they do not get that, they will start to feel alone and neglected.

Teenagers take up almost a huge portion of internet users making them no stranger to all of the things mentioned above and so much more. It can’t be helped that they are exposed to such things since the digital world plays a huge and significant role in this day of age. Also, what cannot be helped is that such exposure can impact them both in a negative and positive light no matter what situation they may be in.

The researchers made a survey as the data collection instrument for this study. In it are the general information such as the respondents’ sex and age. Following those questions were asking the average hours on social media and if they use the Facebook group chat feature. This is to aid the researchers’ aim to gather elicit information about how Facebook group chat increases the likelihood of social isolation.

To measure social isolation, the researchers have included the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale to compute the variable of loneliness among the individuals who will take the survey.

Jenny De Jong Gierveld and Theo Van Tilburg (2010) in their journal entry entitled 'The De Jong Gierveld short scales for emotional and social loneliness: tested on data from 7 countries in the UN generations and gender surveys”, they stated:

Loneliness concerns the subjective evaluation of the situation individuals are involved in, characterized either by a number of relationships with friends and colleagues which is smaller than is considered desirable (social loneliness), as well as situations where the intimacy in confidant relationships one wishes for has not been realized (emotional loneliness). To identify people who are lonely direct questions are not sufficient; loneliness scales are preferred. (par. 1)

Thirty (30) participants (20 female; 10 male) who answered the survey are from the Senior High School Students of Silliman University, The age ranges from 16 to 19.

The procedure is as listed:

The researchers spreads the online survey among the Senior High Students of Silliman University

Once gathering the minimum amount of responses, the researchers will then calculate the results.

A series of graphs are made to display the results.

In summary of the total thirty (30) respondents, they have shown the result of being moderately lonely, earning the score of 6 out of 10 in the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale.

The minority of the respondents (16.7%) have shown results that are severely lonely. The second largest percentage (30%) of respondents have shown the results of being not lonely. The largest portion (53.3%) which is more than half of the respondents have received the result of being moderately lonely.

Among the respondents who have received the results of being severely lonely, most of them spend 5-6 hours (the highest variable given) on social media.

This study mainly focuses on the emotional aspects of the youth and the social isolation they may feel from being more connected with technology than with people. The researchers were to investigate whether or not if the youth were feeling socially isolated in a group chat as it was hypothesised.

To address the problem of social isolation in group chats (or social media in general), the youth should spend less time on their phones and learn to appreciate moments with people off-screen. Team-building activities should be orchestrated at the beginning of every school-years for each section and with phones should be confiscated during it. Infographics/Posters encouraging face-to-face conversations and less usage of technology can be plastered on the bulletin boards scattered around the university.

In conclusion to the study, there is evidence to support the researchers’ claim that Facebook group chat increases the likelihood of social isolation among the Senior High Students of Silliman University, but there are many other factors that could have contributed to their loneliness. The aspect of social isolation is a complexity in itself, and to perfectly measure it was also a challenge, but it was a godsend that there were other researchers who contributed loneliness scales.

Facebook group chat may seem like an insignificant factor and would likely not be considered a social isolation catalyst, but even the simplest of things can make a difference. Being ignored in a group chat can cause anger and resentment which would likely lead to feelings of loneliness and rejection. Although the Internet is a rather effective and efficient mean of communication, it does cause a decline of social welfare and causes users, even those using it for social purposes, feelings of social isolation.

29 April 2022
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