Emotional Agoraphobia

On a recent trip to the UK, I heard the term "emotional agoraphobia.' It was used by the headteacher of one of England's leading schools and she was referring to the tendency of children to use the Internet to make and sustain friendships. Her point was that children seem to favor digital relationships over full-blooded ones, finding screens more alluring than human connection. This in turn could lead to less nourishing relationships, and anxiety when it comes to actually meeting and developing friendships in the real world rather than in cyberspace. Could this explain in part the significant increase in anxiety and depression among teenagers in the UK over the past decade? The head of a charity dealing with mental illness among the young in Britain recently told the London Times that young people are always in touch with their friends through social media and texting, but still feel lonely. The question is: are on-line relationships as nourishing as real world relationships, or are they leading to a growing 'emotional agoraphobia' among the young?