The rise of technology has led one in five Brits to feel more comfortable interacting with people online than they do face-to-face, research has revealed.
It’s all too common to see people absorbed in their phones in all walks of life; on the train, while watching TV, even while hanging out with others.
Technology has provided an easy way to stay entertained and interact with friends without even having to open your mouth, and the detailed study shed light on how tablets, PCs and smart phones have affected interaction.
Results showed a large percentage of the population have become so used to communicating via technology that they now consider traditional, first-hand socialising a ‘challenge’.
One third of those who took part admitted to fretting about what they’ll say to others and worrying they’ll make an embarrassing faux pas without the opportunity to delete their words before they deliver them, while others confirmed they would rather converse with friends over the internet because they feel ‘less intimidated’ doing so.
33 per cent said they feel nervous when meeting people face-to-face for the first time, and four in 10 experience pangs of worry at the mere thought of going out, even if it’s with their own friends.
The worrying revelation may explain why half of those polled admitted to feeling lonely and disconnected from wider society.
The stats emerged following research into social anxiety and the impact of pets can have in reducing symptoms associated with this condition – including low self-esteem, panic attacks and avoiding social activities.
Commissioned by Mars Petcare UK, the study of 2,000 adults found 54 per cent of pet owners who took part in the study found socialising ‘easier’ after getting an animal.
The study was carried out by the pet product manufacturer to launch its ‘Thank You Pets’ campaign, and to celebrate National Pet Day, which takes place tomorrow (April 11).
Nine in 10 reported feeling less lonely, two thirds experienced a new sense of purpose in life, and almost 50 per cent said their feeling of loneliness started to fade within days of getting a cat or dog.
Corinne Sweet, a humanistic psychotherapist and author, said:
Building a relationship with a pet is a major step towards breaking down feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety.
People confide in their pets; calm down by stroking and grooming them and get exercise by taking them for walks – even a trip to the vet is a way of getting out and meeting new people.
Pets can welcome you home, give you physical and emotional contact, and make you feel important. They can help with heartbreak, illness and separation, and be a family ‘hub’ when times are tough.
On an ‘evolutionary psychological’ level humans have always interacted and co-existed with animals, so it is a symbiotic relationship with deep emotional roots.
Those polled admitted they typically feel anxious around five times a week, but according to many proud pet-owners, getting a cat or a dog could reduce these anxieties among those without pets.
More than half of those who don’t have a pet admit they would like to get one in the future, but Mars Petcare UK found there are a number of barriers to this, including long working hours and homes which are too small to accommodate animals.
Deri Watkins, general manager of Mars Petcare UK, said:
We know that when people bring pets into their lives, there are proven benefits to general well-being, mental health and social cohesion.
The vast range of positives that pets bring is something that we want to celebrate this National Pet Day by saying thank you to all pets.
Everyone deserves the right to enjoy the benefits that pets bring to our lives.
You can’t go wrong with having a fluffy little four-legged friend in your life!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.