Social media is one of life’s most fascinating tool, one that you always know where to find. It’s right here, in the palm of your hand. It’s over there, on your desktop computer. But what’s even more intriguing about social media, aside from the fact that it can be accessed anywhere at any time, is that social media can make you feel lonely, especially now when our new norm has shifted mostly virtual. And, even though the entire point of these outlets is to connect you with other people, it’s hard not to feel lonely.

Think about it: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Twitch — pick your poison; they are virtually all at your disposal.

You can even connect to social media through an e-reader and AppleWatch these days, and those things were made to encourage you to read something other than your Facebook feed.

Yet, science says the longer you’re logged on, the more isolated you’re likely to feel.

Experts in the space have been exploring the connection between social media and well-being for years; it’s not exactly groundbreaking news that spending too much time scrolling on your phone isn’t exactly stellar for your mental health. Respectively, a lot of the research out there focuses on the idea that social media profiles are highlight reels, meaning they only offer minute snippets of the best times in a person’s life, like promotions, engagements, and baby announcements.

Let’s be real: It’s gotten to the point where even something as casual as your best friend dying their hair is recognized as a life event worth posting about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty of this online behavior as the next person, but did you know social media might be the reason why you ironically feel so alone in a world of 24/7 connectivity?

The only real fulfilling reciprocal relationships we have are the ones in our reality. Just because you feel somewhat “connected” to another person on social media doesn’t necessarily translate to a genuine connection in real life.

There is a level of superficiality involved with social media that cannot be replicated or replaced by in-person relationships. In other words, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be drawn to another person over social. Those emotions are real and authentic but not quite in the same way that a connection with real-life friends is.

The fact that scrolling through glamorous (albeit filtered) pics and dramatic announcements about so-and-so’s many life accomplishments can sometimes make you feel kind of bad about where you are in life if, in your opinion, the two aren’t comparable.

It’s part jealousy, part FOMO, and that’s what triggers that loneliness: feeling as though you aren’t an active participant in life. Instead, you’re scrolling through it.

There are two main reasons why spending less time on social media can make you feel less lonely. First, the time you spend on these platforms can directly cause you to feel lonely if you spend it passively looking at other people who engage in social activities and think that you’re missing out on doing the same.

The second reason is that spending time on social media can also indirectly increase your feelings of loneliness. When it comes at the expense of spending time engaging with other people in the non-virtual world, you’re lonely because you’re watching someone else live their life, potentially with other people, while you’re living yours on the sidelines. Or so it seems.

So how can we beat the feeling of being lonely? Limiting your time on social media and make the time spent on social media to create a habitual routine that can increase happiness and productivity.

It’s important to remember that every one of us who posts on social only shows a very carefully curated version of our lives.