Virtual Hugs: Isolation in Australia and the Dark Side of Facebook

Topic: Social Media Facebook Mental health Isolation

facebook business” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Facebook has certainly become a key tool for social interaction in an age of digital connectivity. However, this multimedia essay dives into the darker side of Facebook’s impact on Australians’ mental health and social dynamics. While Facebook provides a virtual lifeline, it also poses serious difficulties to individuals and society (Jose Van Dijck et al., 2018). This essay examines the negative features of Facebook as a technique of coping with isolation using academic research, personal experiences, and multimedia elements and also learns how virtual hugs on Facebook can sometimes increase Australians’ feelings of isolation.

Felling Alone, COVID-19 Lockdown” by David Mapletoft is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Isolation, once an unacknowledged aspect of modern life, has gained front stage in recent years, casting a significant shadow over our collective well-being. In Australia, a country famed for its enormous landscapes and spreading communities, isolation takes on new dimensions, which are sometimes exacerbated by geographical distances and periods of social detachment (Hudson & Doogan, 2019).  The tectonic alterations caused by the COVID-19 epidemic have exacerbated the isolation challenge, leaving many Australians craving for connection and assistance. While Facebook has clearly changed the way people connect and communicate, its impact on feelings of isolation in Australia is far from unambiguously beneficial (Wu, 2021). It is argued that, despite its promise for virtual contact, Facebook may frequently become a breeding ground for isolation, contributing to emotional anguish and detachment among its users. By investigating these negative consequences, the paper seeks to expose the platform’s underlying flaws and emphasise the importance of tackling the darker side of Facebook’s impact on Australian culture.

The Hidden Costs of Excessive Facebook Use

While Facebook is undeniably a lifeline for social connection, it’s critical to recognise that excessive usage of the platform has hidden costs, especially in the context of isolation in Australia. With its steady stream of handpicked life highlights, Facebook can unintentionally contribute to unfavourable mental health consequences. Academic research has consistently demonstrated the negative impact of excessive Facebook use on mental health. Limiting Facebook use to 30 minutes per day resulted in significant reductions in melancholy and loneliness among participants, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Robinson & Smith, 2023). The seductive design of Facebook, with its constant scrolling and notifications, can lead to overconsumption. Users may unwittingly disengage from the real world by aimlessly scrolling through their feed for hours. According to Cornell University research, the “infinite scroll” function on social networking platforms can lead to excessive use, which has a negative influence on well-being (Allcott et al., 2021). Another unintended consequence of excessive Facebook usage is the potential deterioration of actual interpersonal connection.

Using Facebook” by leakhenakhat is marked with CC0 1.0.

While the platform allows users to stay in touch, it often only on a surface level. Meaningful conversations are replaced by shallow interactions such as liking a post or leaving a quick comment. To describe these online interactions that lack the depth of in-person contacts, the phrase “digital friendships” has evolved (Shklovski et al., 2015). To summarise, while Facebook can bring solace and a sense of connection during times of loneliness, it is critical to be mindful of its hidden consequences. Excessive Facebook use can have a negative impact on one’s mental health, lead to addiction, and undermine genuine human ties. It’s critical to establish a balance between online involvement and genuine, in-person encounters as we traverse the digital universe.

How Facebook’s Idealized Realities Impact User Well-Being

Envidia / Envy: Eyes don’t lie” by NeoGaboX is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The impact of Facebook on people’s impressions of their life is a complex and frequently inaccurate phenomenon. Users tend to curate and highlight their most positive experiences on the site, according to a study published in the journal Computers and Human Behaviour (Chou & Edge, 2012). This selective sharing contributes to the sense that everyone else is happier and more fulfilled. This distorted perspective of reality can cause people to feel inadequate and even envious.

According to the study’s findings, the more time people spend on Facebook, the more likely they are to see others’ lives as more intriguing and rewarding than their own. This view can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness as users compare their real experiences to the meticulously manufactured narratives portrayed on the platform.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Aside from its impact on mental health and true connection, Facebook’s evil side includes an increasing rise of cyberbullying and online harassment. According to a research done by the Australian eSafety Commissioner in 2022, 44% of Australian young people reported having a negative online experience in the previous six months, with 15% receiving threats or abuse online (Australian government, 2022). The study emphasised how easily Facebook and other social media platforms may turn into breeding grounds for cyberbullying events. Anonymous accounts, combined with the platform’s reach, can inspire individuals to engage in harmful behaviour that they would not participate in offline. This growth in cyberbullying has serious effects, particularly for vulnerable populations such as adolescents and minority groups. The anonymity provided by Facebook can magnify the severity of harassment, resulting in emotional discomfort, anxiety, and, in some cases, disastrous effects.

Anti-cyber bullying fix – meet the troll” by FixersUK is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Superficiality and Erosion of Genuine Connection

Another concerning aspect of excessive Facebook use is the deterioration of true interpersonal connection in favour of digital superficiality. While the site allows users to keep in touch with a large network of friends and acquaintances, these connections are frequently superficial. Instead of deep, meaningful conversations, Facebook creates a culture of “likes” and fast comments. The concept of “digital friendships” has evolved, in which people have hundreds of Facebook friends but few true, in-person ties. As consumers increasingly rely on digital interactions to replace face-to-face conversation, this can lead to feelings of loneliness and separation. Despite being more connected online, an increasing number of Australians expressed feelings of social isolation and loneliness in a poll conducted by the Australian Psychological Society (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019).

The controlled style of Facebook profiles contributes to this perception of shallowness. Users frequently present idealised versions of themselves, revealing just the highlights of their lives while hiding their challenges and insecurities. This leads to a false perception of reality, which contributes to feelings of inadequacy and isolation. In the pursuit of genuine connection, it is critical to recognise Facebook’s limitations and prioritise meaningful, in-person relationships. While the platform can be used to stay in touch, it should not be used to replace the richness of in-person interactions and genuine human connection.

Facebook at Mozcon – Alex” by Thos003 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Facebook’s contribution to eliminating isolation in Australia is unquestionable, but it comes at a high cost. Excessive use can have a negative impact on mental health, encourage digital superficiality, and expose users to cyberbullying. We must navigate this digital landscape with caution, maintaining a balance between online involvement and true human interactions. While Facebook might provide virtual solace, we must keep in mind that the richness of real-world connections is unrivalled in tackling the underlying difficulty of isolation.


Allcott, H., Gentzkow, M., & Song, L. (2021). Digital Addiction. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Australian government. (2022). Cyberbullying | eSafety Commissioner. ESafety Commissioner.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019, September 11). Social isolation and loneliness – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Chou, H.-T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They Are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am”: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking15(2), 117–121.

Hudson, C. G., & Doogan, N. J. (2019). The impact of geographic isolation on mental disability in the United States. SSM – Population Health8, 100437.

Jose Van Dijck, Poell, T., & Martijn De Waal. (2018). The platform society. Public values in a connective world. Oxford University Press.

Robinson, L., & Smith, M. (2023, March 29). Social media and mental health.; HelpGuide.

Shklovski, I., Barkhuus, L., Bornoe, N., & Kaye, J. ’Jofish’. (2015). Friendship Maintenance in the Digital Age. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing1(22).

Wu, A. (2021). The Facebook Trap. Harvard Business Review.

By Ying Wang

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.