Do We Have a Deficit of Real, Close Friends?

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Ralph
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Do We Have a Deficit of Real, Close Friends?

Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:44 pm

Americans' circle of close friends shrinking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Americans are more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life, researchers reported on Friday.

Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said they had "zero" close friends with whom to discuss personal matters. More than 50 percent named two or fewer confidants, most often immediate family members, the researchers said.

"This is a big social change, and it indicates something that's not good for our society," said Duke University Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin, lead author on the study to be published in the American Sociological Review.

Smith-Lovin's group used data from a national survey of 1,500 American adults that has been ongoing since 1972.

She said it indicated people had a surprising drop in the number of close friends since 1985. At that time, Americans most commonly said they had three close friends whom they had known for a long time, saw often, and with whom they shared a number of interests.

They were almost as likely to name four or five friends, and the relationships often sprang from their neighborhoods or communities.

Ties to a close network of friends create a social safety net that is good for society, and for the individual. Research has linked social support and civic participation to a longer life, Smith-Lovin said.

People were not asked why they had fewer intimate ties, but Smith-Lovin said that part of the cause could be that Americans are working more, marrying later, having fewer children, and commuting longer distances.

The data also show the social isolation trend mirrors other class divides: Non-whites and people with less education tend to have smaller social networks than white Americans and the highly educated.

That means that in daily life, personal emergencies and national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, those with the fewest resources also have the fewest personal friends to call for advice and assistance.

"It's one thing to know someone and exchange e-mails with them. It's another thing to say, 'Will you give me a ride out of town with all of my possessions and pets? And can I stay with you for a couple or three months?" Smith-Lovin said.

"Worrying about social isolation is not a matter of nostalgia for a warm and cuddly past. Real things are strongly connected with that," added Harvard University Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," a book on the decline of American community.

He suggested flexible work schedules would allow Americans to tend both personal and professional lives.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Fugu

Post by Fugu » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:48 pm

I have all the friends I need. I have Corlyss. :lol:

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 24, 2006 10:11 pm

Fugu wrote:I have all the friends I need. I have Corlyss. :lol:
:lol: :lol: :lol: So I provide enough stimulation, eh? 8) :lol:
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 24, 2006 10:12 pm

What is this? The sequel to bowling alone? Sitting alone?
Smith-Lovin's group used data from a national survey of 1,500 American adults that has been ongoing since 1972.
They are following the same 1,500? Or different people? I wish they had even half the number that Andrew Kohut surveyed for his report on how the rest of the world sees America.
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jun 24, 2006 10:49 pm

With CMG who needs live friends? :)
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 25, 2006 6:23 am

I read that in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and it rings true for me. The problem gets worse as one gets older. A lot of it has to do with mobility, i.e., people moving away from their friends. Geographic distance I have found is a great friendship-killer, and if it doesn't actually kill the friendship, it kills the practical possibility of relying on the other as part of a support network.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Teresa B » Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:11 am

Ralph wrote:With CMG who needs live friends? :)
Hey, I was still alive last time I looked!

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Post by Teresa B » Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:16 am

jbuck919 wrote:I read that in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and it rings true for me. The problem gets worse as one gets older. A lot of it has to do with mobility, i.e., people moving away from their friends. Geographic distance I have found is a great friendship-killer, and if it doesn't actually kill the friendship, it kills the practical possibility of relying on the other as part of a support network.
You got that right. My favorite local friends have all moved, respectively, to Chicago, Charlottesville, and Williamsburg. Two have moved to the Great Vacationland in the Sky :( . And the last ones have bought a lot in Taos, so any minute now... (Who are all these people who are moving to Florida?)

Teresa
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Author of the novel "Creating Will"

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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:55 am

My closest friends live very far away. I have nice relationships with may of my colleagues but it's not the same thing. They all have busy lives to lead.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 25, 2006 2:38 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I read that in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and it rings true for me. The problem gets worse as one gets older. A lot of it has to do with mobility, i.e., people moving away from their friends. Geographic distance I have found is a great friendship-killer, and if it doesn't actually kill the friendship, it kills the practical possibility of relying on the other as part of a support network.
I still retain the mental and emotional isolation of an Army brat, compounded by that of an only child. I'm a naturally solitary person. My little family was my support group, now with my dad dead these 38 years and my mom effectively gone since 2000, it's just me and the critters. I've lost close friends, and have grieved the loss, but I never had that many to begin with.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:01 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I read that in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and it rings true for me. The problem gets worse as one gets older. A lot of it has to do with mobility, i.e., people moving away from their friends. Geographic distance I have found is a great friendship-killer, and if it doesn't actually kill the friendship, it kills the practical possibility of relying on the other as part of a support network.
I still retain the mental and emotional isolation of an Army brat, compounded by that of an only child. I'm a naturally solitary person. My little family was my support group, now with my dad dead these 38 years and my mom effectively gone since 2000, it's just me and the critters. I've lost close friends, and have grieved the loss, but I never had that many to begin with.
*****

But you have us and some of us are very caring types.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:12 pm

Ralph wrote:But you have us and some of us are very caring types.
:) I know. You guys are quality folks. I'm proud to know you as well as I do.
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Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:16 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:But you have us and some of us are very caring types.
:) I know. You guys are quality folks. I'm proud to know you as well as I do.
*****

So come visit NYC so I can finally meet you!!!!!!!!!!!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:24 pm

Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:But you have us and some of us are very caring types.
:) I know. You guys are quality folks. I'm proud to know you as well as I do.
*****

So come visit NYC so I can finally meet you!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm thinking about it. Maybe in the fall.
Corlyss
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Post by miranda » Sun Jun 25, 2006 5:37 pm

I'm in a similar position to some of you. My best friend lives out west; I just went out there to visit her, at the end of May. It was the first time we'd seen each other in four years. Another close friend of mine has a place in DC, but she's gone for at least six months out of the year, out in California caring for her ailing brother.
I have another friend who lives in town, but over the years we've increasingly lost touch. I suppose this is the kind of thing that happens to (nearly) everybody at some point in their lives.

My isolation doesn't bother me now, as much as it did a few years ago. Like Corlyss, I'm a naturally solitary person.

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Post by Gary » Sun Jun 25, 2006 5:52 pm

I may have to summon back my imaginary friend. :(
"Your idea of a donut-shaped universe intrigues me, Homer; I may have to steal it."

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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 25, 2006 5:57 pm

Gary wrote:I may have to summon back my imaginary friend. :(
*****

Good luck!
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Post by Gary » Sun Jun 25, 2006 6:06 pm

Thanks.
"Your idea of a donut-shaped universe intrigues me, Homer; I may have to steal it."

--Stephen Hawking makes guest appearance on The Simpsons

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