How Connected Do People Feel in the Age of Social Media?
People’s connections with others are essential to their wellbeing and mental health — they need them to thrive. But despite how important these social connections are, there is meager research that provides representative, multinational data on how connected people feel and how they connect with others.
A recent study by Gallup and Meta helps fill this gap, revealing that majorities of people in seven countries — Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the US — said they feel “very” or “fairly” connected to people (as opposed to “a little” or “not at all”).
However, the study also shows that not everyone feels connected to this same degree. More than eight in 10 people in Egypt (87%), France (82%) and Indonesia (81%) said they feel this connected with others, compared with much smaller majorities in Mexico (65%) and Brazil (53%).
These and other findings from the study are detailed in a new Meta-Gallup report, The State of Social Connections, which provides an in-depth look at how connected, socially supported and lonely people feel in different parts of the world.
Whom Are People Connecting With?
The study asked people how often they had interacted with others in six categories over the past seven days: friends or family who live with or near them, friends or family who live far away, neighbors or people who live near them, people from work or school, people from groups they are a part of based on shared interests or beliefs, and strangers or people they don’t know.
More than 65% of people in each of the seven countries reported connecting with people in at least two of these six categories daily or more often in the past week. About half of people in Brazil, France, Mexico and the US interacted with three or more categories of people at least daily, while the figure was closer to 40% in Egypt, Indonesia and India.
Across all countries, people were most likely to say they interacted with friends or family who live with or near them at least once a day, with the highest reported levels in Brazil (78%) and Egypt (77%). While people in India were least likely to interact daily with nearby friends or family (58%), they were among the most likely to say they had interacted this often with friends or family who live far away (42%).
How Do People Connect?
The study also asked people how often they had interacted with others over the past week via seven methods: in-person contact, phone or voice calls, video calls, email, text messages, social media and online/video/virtual reality gaming.
In all countries except Indonesia and India, more than 60% of people reported using two or more methods to connect with people at least daily, with that figure rising to 80% in the US, 75% in France and 70% in Brazil.
While people connected most frequently with others in person, at least one in three people in all countries surveyed — except India — said they had used social media to interact with others at least daily in the past week. The study also found that people who interact via social media frequently were more likely to interact in person more frequently as well.
Do People Reach Out When They Need Help?
Beyond how often people connect, whom they connect with and how they connect, the study provides insight into whether people interact with others to get social support when they need it.
At least a third of people in all seven countries said they needed support or help from someone “often” or “sometimes” in the past 30 days, with majorities responding this way in Egypt (69%) and Indonesia (61%). Conversely, people in India (38%) and France (36%) were most likely to say they “never” needed help in the past 30 days.
Whom Do People Get Support From?
In each country, people who said they needed support or help from others in the past 30 days were asked about several groups they might have interacted with to get that support.
Across countries, more than any other group, people said they interacted with friends or family who live nearby to get support or help. Between one-fifth and one-half of people in all countries also said they interacted with friends or family who live far away for support.
People in Indonesia and Egypt were more likely to say they had interacted with others from most of the groups — including friends or family living close by, friends or family living far away, and people from their work or school.
By contrast, Mexico and France consistently had among the lowest percentages of people saying they interacted with others to get support or help from each group.
How Do People Get Support?
Just as in-person interactions and phone or voice calls were among the most common modes people use to interact with others, people used them most often to seek support or help.
Notably, in three countries — Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico — social media was used about as commonly as phone or voice calls to interact with others for help. Further, more than 40% of people in Indonesia and Egypt had used social media to interact with others for help in the past 30 days.
In France and the US, people were more likely to say they had used text messages to interact with others to get support or help than any form of technological communication except phone or voice calls.
This study barely scratches the surface of the intricacies of how humans connect with one another — and more research is needed. However, it does shine new light on whom people connect with and how they do so, and what factors are related to feelings of connection.
Results from individual countries also further highlight specific groups who are particularly likely to experience higher levels of loneliness or less access to support — which is discussed in detail in the full report.
This information, coupled with data from more than 140 countries slated for release in 2023, can help provide governments, community-based organizations and private companies with more insight into who is socially vulnerable and how those with a disadvantaged socioeconomic position can thrive with better support through social networks.
Read the full report.
To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on Twitter.