NEW YORK — A new study is revealing there may have been an even more devastating pandemic to come out of 2020 than COVID-19 — loneliness. Since the start of the pandemic, 67 percent of Americans say they feel more alone than ever before.
The poll of 2,003 Americans also finds 55 percent feel like they’ve completely lost their sense of community over the past year.
The survey, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Medifriends, aimed to see how COVID-19 has affected Americans during their isolation and self-quarantines. Researchers discovered 62 percent felt like they had absolutely no one to talk about their loneliness during quarantine.
Sadly, 54 percent add they withheld from talking to anyone about how alone they felt during this past year because they didn’t want to be a burden. The feelings of loneliness and isolation were so rampant among Americans 46 percent admit they cried for the first time in years at some point during COVID.
Maintaining friendships and relationships can take a lot of energy. Since COVID-19 hit, 58 percent of respondents say they just can’t keep up with everybody anymore. As people began feeling more and more isolated over the past year, researchers find Americans turned to the internet for a source of comfort and community.
Finding COVID company online
Over half the poll believe online friendships take much less energy to maintain than real-life ones. In fact, 52 percent say they actually feel more comfortable opening up to people they only know online. Some of the reasons why online friendships allow respondents to open up more freely include it feeling more anonymous (41%), encountering less judgment (34%), and feeling like there’s less pressure to be perfect (23%).
Sixty-two percent of Americans reveal that after sharing their feelings with an online community, they actually feel better about themselves. As a result, 56 percent of respondents confess they wouldn’t have made it through this past year if it wasn’t for an online friend they had to communicate with.
“Having a safe space where people can speak freely about their feelings and what they are dealing with is critical for their health,” says Michael Gianascoli, co-founder of Medifriends, a free online community where friends can share health-related issues and advice, in a statement. “In fact, being able to openly discuss feelings and emotions is a great way to connect with others even in difficult times.”
Social media a ‘first-responder’ for lonely people
Unfortunately, the average person says they ended up losing touch with four friends during the pandemic. As a result, peak loneliness hit the average American in June 2020, which caused respondents to turn to the internet to ease their lonesome feelings. The average American also created three brand-new social media accounts in just the last year. This branching out led to two deep conversations a week with an online friend; someone they’ve never met in real life.
“Having a place to go to for deep conversations is crucial when experiencing feelings of loneliness, isolation, or other medical conditions. Being able to connect with others on a deeper level allows people to feel better about themselves and boost their mood overall,” adds Medifriends co-founder David Gianascoli.