LDS Church news recently reported on a BYU-Idaho study that found links between social media use and loneliness. Basically, the more time LDS people spent on social media like Facebook and Instagram, the lonelier they felt. If this sounds like you or someone you care about, here are some great quotes and counsel from general conference to help kick that Facebook-induced loneliness to the curb.
1. If you’re on Facebook, you’re not working
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work.” Work not only helps us overcome loneliness, but is also, as President Dieter F. Uchtforf teaches, “an antidote for anxiety, an ointment for sorrow, and a doorway to possibility.”
So, one cure for loneliness is to get off Facebook and work. Of course, if Facebook was what you did during your downtime, you should make sure that the work you do during your typical Facebook time is a refreshing change. If you’re a student or your full-time job involves sitting, reading, thinking, and writing, you may want to do some physical work, and vice-versa.
2. Overcome negative focus
The BYU-Idaho study found that some of the negative effects of social media were stronger than the positive. For example, if you get a lot of likes and positive comments on a post, it’s a little uplifting; if your post doesn’t get very many likes, it’s much more disheartening. The focus on the negative is stronger than the focus on the positive.
President Thomas S. Monson has given us some excellent counsel on avoiding negative focus: “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”
Everyone’s life and blessings vary, but here are a few items you can be grateful for if you’re on social media— First of all, you’re literate. So many people throughout time didn’t have this blessing! In 1820, a mere 12% of people around the world could read and write. You have access to the Internet. You probably have a smartphone or computer. You have electricity. You have plenty of food and clean water. And last but not least, some people using social media might just happen to consider, because of where they’re sitting, how grateful they are for indoor plumbing. Life is so much nicer with that. So be grateful! You have so much! Who cares if your latest post was vastly ignored.
Another awesome way to overcome negative focus is to follow the Church’s social media accounts. There are so many! This can guarantee that the posts that make you feel lonely will be interspersed with wonderful uplifting thoughts from the scriptures and apostles. The Church has 65+ official Facebook pages! You can find the links here: LDS Social Media Pages. Additionally, when you like or share a post from the Church, it boosts the visibility of that post and page. You’re helping the Church with your likes.
3. Comparing brings you down
We have been counseled so frequently in general conference to not compare ourselves to others in a way that brings us down! Apparently, this is a hard lesson to learn. The BYU-Idaho study found that after looking at the posts of others, the LDS respondents tended to feel like their own lives weren’t measuring up. President Uchtdorf’s counsel on not comparing ourselves to others ought to be part of the Facebook and Instagram log-in process.
4. It is not good for man or woman to be alone
The BYU-Idaho study reported that once men and women got engaged, they felt less lonely and spent less time on social media. So, here’s a little counsel from Elder Robert D. Hales for the singles out there who would love to be engaged right now:
“Your responsibility now is to be worthy of the person you want to marry. If you want to marry a wholesome, attractive, honest, happy, hardworking, spiritual person, be that kind of person. If you are that person and you are not married, be patient. Wait upon the Lord. I testify that the Lord knows your desires and loves you for your faithful devotion to Him. He has a plan for you, whether it be in this life or the next.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard suggests a nice place to meet someone:
“[D]on’t forget that classes and activities offered at your local institute or through your young single adult ward or stake will also be a place where you can be with other young men and young women and lift and inspire one another as you learn and grow spiritually and socialize together…[I]f you will set aside your cell phone and actually look around a little, you may even find your future companion at the institute.”
5. Women are using social media more and are lonelier than men
The BYU-Idaho study found that women struggled with loneliness associated with high social media usage more than men. I looked up a couple of common explanations for this type of gender difference, and matched them with inspiring LDS quotes and counsel. Keep in mind that in studies like these, there is often more overlap than differences, so the thoughts below can apply to either gender.
Explanation #1: Men just don’t admit it
One study suggests that men are as lonely as women, but they are less comfortable expressing it. In this instance, some sound advice from a Church mission prep manual states: “Through music, you and those you teach can invite the influence of the Holy Ghost and express feelings that may be hard to express in other ways.”
Just as in missionary work, music can help people in everyday life to express feelings that they don’t have words for, such as loneliness. The Savior knows loneliness better than anyone, and our hymnal wouldn’t be complete if some of the songs didn’t reflect this. Listening and singing some of these hymns can invite the Spirit, and validate one’s feelings of loneliness. It can help one feel closer to the Lord. There are also many secular songs that express and validate lonely feelings, but they often lack the dignity and nobility of a hymn.
Explanation #2: Men like big groups and women like one-on-one close friendships
A frequently cited study found that men were less likely to feel lonely if they were a part of big group of friends. Women’s feelings of loneliness were more connected to the quality of their one-on-one relationships, and being a part of a large group didn’t lessen their feelings of loneliness like it did for men.
The BYU-Idaho study focused mainly on an LDS population, so perhaps the men felt less lonely because they were a part of larger groups like an Elder’s Quorum or Ward. Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught that in addition to being a class and a service unit, a quorum is also a fraternity. That feeling of brotherhood can help dispel feelings of loneliness. Men who were reporting high amounts of social media use and loneliness might want to get more involved with their ward and Priesthood quorum.
Women who long for meaningful one-on-one connections emulate the Savior’s way of loving. He blessed the Nephite children one by one (3 Ne. 17:21). We all need to give and receive individual attention; to bless and be blessed one by one. LDS women who feel lonely can heed Linda K. Burton’s plea from April 2016 GC: “[W]e have organized a relief effort called ‘I Was a Stranger.’ It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do—according to your own time and circumstance—to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities. This is an opportunity to serve one on one, in families, and by organization to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service and is one of many ways sisters can serve.”