Photo © Bobi Bobi Illustrations, via Wikimedia Commons
With more and more people referring to their boss, roommate, classmate, wife, husband, and dog-walker all as “Friends,” it may get harder and harder to tell who’s who.
“But what? Don’t be silly—Of course my dog-walker is not my friend!” you say.
But perhaps you “Friended” him on Facebook.
And this is the kind of indiscriminate “Friending” I’m talking about that could be the thorn in our sides years down the lonely road. It is casual, water-under-the-bridge friendship like this that could end up watering down the real friendships we already have—even more than they already have been.
What is friendship in America? Is it a close bond, or is it a passive, easily-dissolvable “Scotch-Tape” that ties us to people we like (for now)? Over my life, I have known friends, but many of them haven’t stayed around. What I’ve found instead—people can be somewhat detached. And detachment is one of my worst pet peeves!
Has anybody read about the decline of friendship in America, and its consequences? It’s an interesting study, if you ever want to look at it. A particular study suggests the following (Bolded text is my doing—this excerpt I have shortened up a little…you can read the whole article here):
In 1985, the average American had three people in whom to confide matters that were important to them, says a study in today’s American Sociological Review. In 2004, that number dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants at all.
“You usually don’t see that kind of big social change in a couple of decades,” says study co-author Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Also, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to mental and physical illness.
The study finds fewer contacts are from clubs and neighbors; people are relying more on family, a phenomenon documented in the 2000 book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, a Harvard public policy professor.
The percentage of people who confide only in family increased from 57% to 80%, and the number who depend totally on a spouse is up from 5% to 9%, the study found.
Pause. This idea of relying on family is not such a bad one. I am pro-family—I love my family—and whether or not this statistic implies social health or not I am undecided on. It is simply an interesting correlation, and one that I may expound further on in a later post. Continue:
The chief suspects: More people live in the suburbs and spend more time at work, Putnam says, leaving less time to socialize or join groups.
Also, people have more entertainment tools such as TV, iPods and computers, so they can stay home and tune out. But some new trends, such as online social networking, may help counter the effect, he says.
Here at the end, I have to disagree. I don’t believe that sites such as Facebook strengthen friendships, and I’m even unsure of less creepy venues of “Cheap” communication, such as IM’ing and text-messages. To be honest, I appreciate a good text message, but I would far rather spend face-to-face time.
“Sure,” you say, “This is all good and well…After all, I appreciate ‘Real’ friendships more than online friendships.” Second guess yourself…go through this checklist and think about it.
- Am I spending more time socializing with friends (or “Friends”) on Facebook etc., or in real-life? This may be a bad sign.
- Am I subconsciously (or consciously) distancing myself from those who could be close friends by keeping them at arm’s length…holding them in my hand via text message, IM, brief emails, or those “Christmas Brag” letters?
- Am I calling people “Friends” too soon?
- Is my Facebook Friend list too long to mean anything?
- Am I undervaluing those people who stick by me?
- How many people would “Do anything for me,” as it were?
Forgive me if I don’t sound like my regular jocular self today—this is an issues straight from the heart. 🙂
What has your experience been with American Friendships? If you are foreign and have visited America, what have you found? If you are foreign and would like to share your culture’s view on friendships, please do. 🙂