Image: martin-dm via iStock Image: martin-dm via iStock

We're used to living as busy a life on social media as we do offline, with most of us feeling a need to check sites like Instagram on a regular basis throughout the day.

However, could this online obsession be coming at the expense of real-life relationships and experiences? Could young people in particular be ditching those exciting first sexual encounters in favour of Facebook likes and YouTube subscribers?

A new study seems to suggest this is the case. According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)'s research of 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds, fewer teenagers are having sex than ever before.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had never had sex - despite being above the age of consent - with many instead preferring to spend time online and even socialising with their families (now that was practically unheard of in the nineties).

Indeed, many teens admitted to spending up to five hours each day 'surfing the net', something that is no doubt seriously eating into their face-to-face interaction. And if you rarely meet someone in person, there's not much chance of hopping into bed with them.

More than two-thirds of respondents said they speak to their friends online at least four times a week, but only 22 per cent reported seeing friends outside of work or study once a month or even less.

The teens involved in the research said making time for studying, work and family left them with little time to socialise in real life, particularly romantically.

Of course, this is great in terms of teen pregnancy rates (at an all-time low) and dedication to education - 82 per cent said getting good grades and having a great career is a priority, which is really admirable.

We're also not suggesting that casual sex with just anyone is a good thing; it's positive that today's teens are so selective about prospective partners.

But aren't young people missing out on vital connections with others that could lead to lifelong relationships?

A past study from the University of Pittsburgh found that spending two hours a day on social networks could lead to your chances of feeling socially isolated being twice as high as the average.

"We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalise us instead of bringing us together," commented Professor Brian Primack, lead author of the research.

As long as you use condoms and act safely when it comes to meeting people, it's vital that you come together (pardon the pun) with other human beings on a fairly regular basis. Perhaps look into groups of people who share similar interests near you, or start one if they don't exist.

We're all for dedication to family and academia - but not if it means isolation, loneliness and a lack of fun sex in your life. Disconnect your Wi-Fi for a while and get out there. You might meet some great people and see more than just their profile pics, for once.