In spite of status updates on Facebook, sharing personal videos on Youtube, tweeting to your friends on Twitter, why are users today still so lonely?

No matter how many friends one can have online, the average American has fewer intimate friends to actually confide in than they did a decade ago, according to one study published in SFGate.

Another study found that 20 percent of all individuals are, at any given time, unhappy because of social isolation, according to University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo.

People come into my office and say, 'I'm depressed or obsessive.' They don't say, 'I'm lonely,' said Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School and co-authored The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century. People are so embarrassed about being lonely that no one admits it. Loneliness is stigmatized, even though everyone feels it at one time or another.

Olds wrote the book because she wanted to bring loneliness out of the closet.

In the study, people reported having fewer intimate friends in 2004 than they had in 1985. When asked how many people they could confide in, the average number dropped over that same time period from three to two.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed said in 2004 that they had no one to discuss important or personal issues with in the past six months compared to only 7 percent in 1985 who said they lacked confidants.

Loneliness has a terrible reputation in this country, Olds said. It's a problem not just with a few people without social skills. It's not synonymous with being a loser.

Psychologists and other researchers have debated whether the Internet has made us lonelier. Some argue it keeps us connected while others believe sites like Facebook is not an alternative to real-life contact - and it creates a false sense of intimacy.

Loneliness, Cacioppo said, has more in common with hunger, thirst and pain than it does with mental illness. It signals that something is wrong and needs to be corrected.