Saturday, June 24, 2006

Desperate for Friends?

There was an interesting article today in the Knoxville News Sentinel entitled Personal Bonds about a study at Duke University showing how "socially isolated" Americans are today as compared to 1985:

Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two...

Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in. But if people face trouble in that relationship, or if a spouse falls sick, that means these people have no one to turn to for help, Smith-Lovin said.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties - once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits - are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

Smith-Lovin said increased professional responsibilities, including working two or more jobs to make ends meet, and long commutes leave many people too exhausted to seek social - as well as family - connections: "Maybe sitting around watching 'Desperate Housewives' ... is what counts for family interaction."


I wonder what this "friendless" society means in terms of people's behavior? For example, do disturbed people commit more mass murder in the US because they are so isolated and when pushed to the limit, feel they have nowhere to turn and no one to talk to? Is this study even correct--do people really stay away from others because they are so exhausted from work and long commutes, or is Desperate Housewives just more entertaining than exchanging verbal pleasantries with the neighbors? Finally, what is a friend and how do you define one? Frankly, I have people other than family I could count on to help out in certain situations and vice versa but I am not sure I would call them friends.

What do readers think--do you have any friends and if so, who do you consider a friend? If you don't have any friends, why not?

Update: Thanks to all the commenters so far who have written in to describe their desire or lack of desire for friends. As with most psychological characteristics, I think the need for friends spans a wide spectrum with some of us being outside the "norm" (whatever that means) in either direction. I will take the liberty of using some of the comments on friendship to clarify the spectrum of responses to closeness to other human beings.

Take for example, this commenter who describes friendship as so important that he puts in the effort even after moving:

"This entire thread is alien to me. I'm 60 years old and I have many friends. I'm still in contact with some of my friends from high school and college, even though I've lived in five different states since then and have never moved back "home". I've kept in contact with some people I've worked with, worked for and who worked for me. This took effort over the years."

Another commenter also prefers to "run like a pack":

I come from an "old world" culture where one's tight circle of friends - no more than half a dozen plus their significant others - was the be all and end all of one's world. One's family, essentially. Talk all the time, hang out all the time, go on trips together, essentially run like a pack; then co-raise one another's children and grow old together.

Yet at the other end, commenters describe being alone as a positive condition:

"Anon 5:40 says 'I'm a loner by nature and very happy that way.' Me too! I have a life-long friend, but I've not talked to him in 2-3 years and haven't seen him in close to 10. I haven't called him and he hasn't called me, but eventually when one of us does we'll pick up like we talked yesterday. Then go back into hibernation mode. I've always liked the line in the movie 'Heat' where the girl with a large family asks the DeNiro character with no family who lives alone, whether he's lonely. He replies, 'I live alone, but I'm not lonely.' Sums it up nicely, though a fictional bank robber as an example may not make a viable point!"

Some of us want friends but don't know how to get them:

"I try to think of myself as a 'lone wolf' but I am not. I am just the mangy pack member circling the group, trying to figure out where I might fit in, even only for a while."

'Friendships are a mystery to me. I'm 37, and still not sure how to 'make friends.'"

I think the lesson here is that friendship means different things to different people. Our threshold for human contact differs--some of us enjoy being alone, some are alone because they have no idea about how to make friends and others revel in numerous friendships and get joy from them. People affect people differently--if you are energized by people and feel pleasure in being with others (a typical extrovert), then friendships can be postive, but if you tend towards introversion, then people can sometimes exhaust you and make you feel blue instead of energized--perhaps more boundaries are needed to maintain your emotional health.

However, even an introvert may need other people--even one person who you can talk with and share some of yourself in ways that feel safe. I don't want to get into too many cliches such as 'if you want a friend, be a friend' but it is probably true. In addition, even if you do not have close friendships in your life, I think it is important to be willing to help others in times of need. I personally may not want to sit on my back porch chatting with a neighbor, but I would be happy to help them if they needed a hand (finding a lost dog, borrowing a tool, watching their house while they are on vacation etc.). If we could keep ourselves open to reaching out to others in times of need, yet still realize that we may need boundaries in our interactions with others, our lives would be greatly improved.

113 Comments:

Anonymous serket said...

I am 22 and I think I fit the socially isolated profile. There are about three guys that I consider friends, but really they are more like acquaintances. I rarely hang out with them. I have never been close enough to someone so that they called to hang out with me very much. I have never had a girlfriend. I think the biggest problem is that I am extremely shy and not talkative in social situations.

9:14 PM, June 24, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Desperate for friends?

No.

Seek and ye shall find as they say.

It really isn't that hard to find friends, or if you really have no one around, move to a big city.

9:33 PM, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i caught a blurb of that study on npr this morning and was a little surprised. while certainly i had more 'friends' when the original study took place, i was also 16. so, trying to get an accurate understanding of this study, i compare myself now to my mom 20 years ago. both single moms with kids, she was working two jobs, me working one job and about to finish nursing school. busy busy. who has time for friends? yes, i defintely have fewer friends than 20 years ago, but i think that i have more than my mother did 20 years ago - she, by the way, seems to have quite a bit more friends now 20 years later. go mom!

10:01 PM, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dave, i was the loneliest ever when living in a big city (san francisco). there were so many people around, but no one had the time to cultivate friendships - myself included.

10:02 PM, June 24, 2006  
Blogger Baronger said...

Maybe its more a matter of being more cautious in the modern world. Is it more to do with people being more cautious. I would like to see a study done on trust.

As for the internet socialy isolating people. I think that instead of close knit small groups of friends, we have gone to large social networks of allies.

At various times my social network has included people from as far away as Norway, Poland and Japan. Geography is no longer an obstaccle to these networks, but they are more alliances rather then friendships. Six degrees of seperation might have decreased to five because of this.

10:04 PM, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have a lot of friends, until I moved to the burbs. It seems in the burbs, everything revolves around children, and so real adult friendships are hard to develop.

10:09 PM, June 24, 2006  
Blogger Protagonist said...

I'm 27 and married. I can confide and count on my wife, but that's about it. I have a handful of friends from college and graduate school whom I keep in contact with, but none whom I would say I'm terribly close to. I haven't made any friends since I finished school.

Part of me wishes I made more friends, but I've also found "friendships" to be parasitic, manipulative and detrimental. I had a gang of friends in college, but gradually fell out with them, mostly because their values and priorities were so different from mind. It's like they thought college would last forever. I also found that a group of "friends" tends to devolve into a gang of people who insult each other--sometimes in an extemely offensive manner--and try to make each other think and act like they do.

Frankly, I've rarely been in a long-term social relationship that didn't turn into some primal alpha-male struggle for dominance and uniformity. I've found this to be true even among groups full of individuals who are very intelligent and very nice. I've also found this to be the case among both religious and secular settings, or altruistic and rational self-interest settings. It's like there are rules and values we cognizantly have, then there are these caveman rules which end up overriding every belief or interest we have. It makes me very pessimistic.

10:41 PM, June 24, 2006  
Blogger Thomas said...

I'd like to know how the incidence of friendship has changed since 1985 after controlling for the aging of the population. As a person gets older he or she is bound to have fewer friends because of mortality, unless the person does something unlikely by seeking friends among younger persons. Moreover, aging reduces the ranks of "work friends" in two ways: (1) those who advance (with age) tend to have a smaller circle of peers with which to associate; (2) retirees naturally tend to lose "work friends" because (a) they're no longer seeing them (the work friends) every day and (b) they (the retirees) often relocate.

11:26 PM, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Teri said...

There are at least five friends that I could call at any moment of the day or night if I needed to talk about something serious and difficult:

1) Sister in law
2) Old friend from my teens and twenties
3) Old friend from my thirties
4) Newer friend from three jobs ago
5) Newest friend - my disabled son's case manager, professional relationship has developed into friendship over last three years

If friends are important to you, you will have friends, I think.

11:43 PM, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Pete said...

I've managed to hold onto two different people I would consider friends. Both are single male loners like myself. If they needed something, I would do all I could and I know they would do the same for me. In the past 5 years, I've reconnected with two of my older brothers and though they are blood, I consider them my friends also.

12:36 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was unable to form lasting adult female friendships until I married. I think I was very bad at choosing friends.

Now I have several close females friends who are the wives of my husband's friends. My husband is very good at choosing friends. I am thankful that he makes up for my deficiency.

1:39 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I (a man) was in college, lo those many years ago, I had a couple of close male friends and several friendly acquaintances. My close friends and I shared personal issues of various kinds, often having to do with females. Over the years since, most of those relationships faded away, and I made fewer new ones. For a time, I wanted to, but found that my desire for close friendships was not mirrored in the men or women that I met. Most of these people seemed quite content with casual group-oriented and work-related friendships that did not extend outside the workplace. Gradually, I, too, lost that desire for close connection with others.

Now I find that I have no desire for friendship. I maintain a couple of relationships from older days, but would not sorrow greatly if they, too, faded away. Friendships require an investment of time and effort to maintain, without providing concomitant value. Satisfaction is transient, and new investment not worthwhile.

So I am a pleasant, intelligent, and amusing person in the workplace, liked and respected by my colleagues, but when I move on to a new employer, I leave behind the "friends" I made, sooner or later, with no feeling of loss.

I wonder, sometimes, if there is something wrong with me. It is tempting to blame the rest of the world, but probably inappropriate. I am sure that my disinterest in friendship has nothing to do with professional responsibilities, time spent at work, commuting, or exhaustion.

As for the meaning of friendship: The article you quote implies that a friendship is a relationship with someone you can confide in regarding your personal troubles. It also speaks of "turning to people you can trust" in times of trouble. Who wants to do this? I don't know. Is it a female thing? All I know is that I seem to lack the desire.

I suspect that the major contribution to lack of social ties and friendship has to do with the changes in our civilization that make us less dependent on other people to get our physical needs met. One might build stronger bonds with people one relies on for survival (witness soldiers, for example), yet we mostly rely on systems and organizations for survival these days. Perhaps the decline in social ties reflects nothing more than their decline in status from necessity to option.

As for me, I do not miss my once-held desire for friendship. Nor do I miss old friends. I do find myself wondering if there might possibly be more to life, but without any means to answer the question.

Food for thought.

2:02 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lots of friends whom I have known for years. Some of them are much closer to me than my own relatives since we spend more time together doing things of mutual interest. I also manage to make friends of people with various nationalities and religious backgrounds since I use to travel a lot. I find that a lot of friendship in the workplace tend to be superficial and fades once the employment relationship changes.

The other thing I have observed is that friendship with the opposite sex is always construed to involve sex or romance. I've had female friends who incidentally treated me like a brother they never had and I respect that healthy relationship. Making friends with older people is also difficult but the key factor is trust and respect. I'm proud to have a friend whom I've known for 18 years and when his father introduced me to their congregation as "their adopted son" I was just floored.

4:25 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger jw said...

The posters to this thread seem to show what the article speaks of.

I lost my friends when I decided to marry and move to her hometown: I've not replaced the friends, even though I know I should.

I think there are multuple reasons for a loss of close friends. As anonymous 2:02 said, the reliance on systems is one of the things driving the loss. Marriage breakdown will play its' part in the thing, at least over the longer course. The hours being worked by the average worker will also be a part of the thing, as will commutes.

One thing I bet is present we see in our males: There's more of a feeling of disenfranchisment & detachment from society --a feeling that society just doesn't care-- that drives males into ourselves; which in turn cuts down on the number of male relationships females have.

I'm sure there are other pieces to this puzzle.

4:25 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from a very large and close family and am close to my siblings.
But as for non-family friends, I can't say I have a lot of them.
I'm a loner by nature and very happy that way.

5:40 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This entire thread is alien to me. I'm 60 years old and I have many friends. I'm still in contact with some of my friends from high school and college, even though I've lived in five different states since then and have never moved back "home". I've kept in contact with some people I've worked with, worked for and who worked for me. This took effort over the years. Now, I admit that most of these people wouldn't necessarily be the ones that I'd want to confide in if I had major problems, but I know that several of them would get on a plane and come to me if I asked them to. I know that I'm lucky this way, but they also know that I'd do the same for them. Trust, reliability and consistancy are the keys to friendship. Keeping in touch with people is much easier today (with email) than it used to be, and that's a big plus in friedship, as is being choosey about your friends; not wasting a lot of time on people who are poor choices and simply not worth the effort. When you find a friend, which isn't easy, keep them your friend. Steven Covey (I know, I know) talks about building an "emotional bank account" with people whom you want to be important in your life. Truer words were never spoken.

Mike Doughty

8:34 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger quadrupole said...

One of the things I think is increasing isolation is the decline of the social onramps in our society. College is a great social onramp, but many folks then move away from the place they went to college for their first job.

How exactly do you find a social set in a new local post-college? Some folks do through church, but increasingly we are a less religious society. What else is there for plugging in? I think that's the root of a lot of the isolation. I think that's also why so many people remember their college experience so fondly, because of the easy social onramp.

8:39 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

I think the numbers speak. From three to two? Statistically it means 33%, but realistically it mean one less friend. Like others, I have friends I've known for 30+ years. Two. I have others I've known less. Two. Yippeee, I've got 100% more friends than the average.

That said, when I was younger I had many friends. Now that I'm older, I consider "friend" to mean something different and far fewer people fit my current definition.

9:37 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 67, and I lost my best friend when my wife died last winter. Now I have just three friends with whom I could discuss anything at all -- two women and one man. I also have two brothers that I could talk to, but I don't often do so because they live far away.

9:43 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Jay said...

I guess I'm an outlier of sorts -- I can think of a double-digit number of people immediately (of both genders) who would certainly qualify as close friends. And I am no extrovert.
I concur with:
1. Baronger's suggestion about "alliances," of which I have a very large number -- tens at least, if not hundreds -- due to modern technologies.
2. Protagonist's warning about alpha-male behavior, which is a constant risk, but would encourage him to persist.
I disagree with the notion that longer commute times, in particular, are limiting friendship formation. Average commute times in the US have been declining for a generation.
Some possible causes I see in the reported overall decrease in close friendships are:
1. Inaccurate self-reporting.
2. "Dyadic withdrawal" after marriage.
3. Greater material prosperity and self-reliance.
4. High mobility of American society; I have read that 8% of the entire population moves across a county line every year.
Constructive suggestions:
1. Quadrupole's "social onramps," probably a better image than what I would come up with, which would be a lot of impenetrable jargon about mediating institutions and transaction-cost handling.
2. Measure the actual number of close friends by tracking funeral attendance; I hear that for men in particular, typically only one or two attendees at their funeral are not relatives, co-workers, etc. If this can be done, it should eliminate the self-reporting problem mentioned above.

10:10 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friendships are a mystery to me. I'm 37, and still not sure how to "make friends." I have a rather large social circle, but of that there are only about 3 people besides my husband with whom I can talk about anything. And two of them live out of town and I see them rarely. I sometimes think I have a harder time with friendships b/c though I am female, most of my friends are male. For the most part other women annoy me at best. They are catty, manipulative, dishonest and shallow -- at least the women I seem to meet. I find men overall to be more honest, genuine, and interesting. I have had a few good female friends over the years, but only one has lasted to this day. A few "girlfriends" dropped me like a hot potato some time back -- we had been rather close and suddenly they stopped inviting me to their gatherings and would not return my calls. I found out some months later through the grapevine that there was some slight they believed had been committed by me, and rather than talk about it with me they chose to end the friendship in what I consider to be a rather cowardly manner. I valued them greatly, unfortunately the feeling apparently was not mutual. This same scenario played out again a few years later with another woman I felt I had a good friendship with. So it seems pretty pointless to invest a lot of time and energy into developing a relationship that only I value.

re: the Internet -- I do also have a social circle of online folks that I have never met. We have a chatroom where we hang out, and over the course of a couple years I can say I do feel comfortable talking with these folks about pretty much anything. There are 4 of these folks who I feel pretty attached to. But can I really call them "friends" when we have never met? I still feel weird about it sometimes.

10:18 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Xenofere said...

Social isolation means that people live more "inside their heads".

When there is no one with whom you can communicate on a deep and personal level, you keep your thoughts to yourself.

Everyone is constantly dealing with challenges, constantly evaluating people, things and events around him, in relation to himself. For everything significant that happens around us, we never fail to ask "is this good or bad for me?" -- whether we do it consciously or not.

All this mental processing goes on regardless of communication or feedback, because it's essential to the process of living. All of it produces results that determine who we are and what we believe.

On an individual level, I think it makes people narrow-minded. There is a contempt that develops towards ideas you don't like that can only be mitigated by seeing those ideas expressed in, or argued for, by a person whom you value. If you value no one, you lose this lever to broaden your thinking.

As a consequence, socially isolated people are often fixed in their beliefs, impatient and contemptuous of those who would differ.

People who are socially isolated learn to watch out for themselves, sometimes to the detriment of others. It takes constant practice to think in terms of what others might want or feel. If there is no one whom you value enough, there is little occasion to think in such terms, and perhaps this re-inforces the social isolation by making such people bad company.

In terms of society, I think the term "fragmented" used in the article is very appropriate. Since most people can't survive social isolation for long without incapacitating themselves with depression or insanity, they find outlets.

Alcohol is always popular, but one of the newer outlets is fragmented media, including blogs, talk radio, etc. Socially well-adjusted people look to the blogs of their choice for light relaxation in like-minded company, from the perceived irrationalities of their day. Socially isolated people seek them out as corraboration of their own incestuous beliefs.

I sometimes wonder how many of the call-ins on talk shows are from socially isolated people. Same goes for political blogs.

10:22 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A decade ago my parents, who are now in their early 70s, didn't have email. It always seemed to me and my siblings like they didn't have many close friends while we were growing up, but they talked a lot about old ones who were lost or lapsed.

Then email came along.

I can't begin to describe the difference in my parents.

All their old friends who were relevant some 40, 50, or 60 years ago are in regular and often daily contact these days. Vacations are planned around seeing each other.

Same thing with me and my wife... last weekend we spent two days with other couples we were friends with in college but hadn't seen for 6 or 7 years. It was like time evaporated. We spoke as freely about issues today as we did in college.

Same thing with my friends. My best friend reconnected in the past month with an elementary childhood friend who had moved away 30 years ago.

I know it's all anecdotal on my part, but I think this study is bunk in the age of email.

10:22 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Ron said...

The last few months have been the worst in my life so far, and I'm in a crisis situation. My so-called family has abandoned me and wont even talk to me anymore. My friends network is fairly good, but spread around the country. My best friend lives nearby, and she's been an incredible help, down to getting fellow-bloggers to help me both emotionally and financially! If I pull through, she's been the greatest help by far. So much for blood relations!

10:35 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Beth Donovan said...

I have more friends now than at any time in my life. Why? The Internet, blogging, the ease that I can chat with my blog friends.

When my husband and I have gone to blog meets, it is like we are greeting old friends. We have a lot more in common then the 'work friends' or people in the neighborhood.

One group I have met thru blogging has an email list, and we email each other every day. If someone has a sick kid, we do what we can to help her out. If someone needs a hug, we are there to give hugs a plenty.

If anyone wants to chat, we chat - sometimes 10 of us will chat, and it's fun and silly.

My son, a college Junior, emails his highschool friends every day. They are at universities all over the country, but they really keep in touch.

We may appear to be isolated, because we don't have people over (unless they are in town), but we are more in touch with people than ever!

10:35 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Ron,

You never know where you will find your friends and blood is not always thicker than water. I am glad you had such wonderful people who made an effort to help you when you needed it most.

Beth Donovan,

I agree that the internet and blogging is a great way to meet people and have relationships that can be as good or better than meeting somone at work or around town. Frankly, I really doubt that anyone in my neighborhood even knows what a podcast is--or has much interest in a blog, so it is refreshing to talk with others who have common interests.

10:45 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Serket,

If you are happy the way you are, please ignore my advice but if you would like to get to know others better, perhaps you just need some coaching with your social skills or anxiety.

Many therapists are qualified to help with these problems or talk to a clergy or someone you feel might point you in the right direction. You are far too young and probably interesting to stay home alone if that is not what you want.

10:59 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Christopher Fotos said...

Random thoughts:

Some people may not appreciate that being able to make friends is a gift or a talent, like any other talent. Not everyone who wants them will have them, like anything else in life.

At least one commenter above mentions how in suburbia life seems to revolve around children, and if you don't have any you're out of luck. Corrolary to this is if you're not married. I've managed to hold on to a few close, dear friends who are, but even in those cases there's the sting of being excluded from couples-oriented events. Which I understand, but still...

As for commuting, a commenter says average commuting times have been decreasing nationally. I can only say for myself that long commutes have definitely damaged my ability to form new friendships. And living in the DC area for so long, I wonder whether this status-crazed area adds another barrier to forming friendships that are more than just exploitive. Though I suspect that's true generally.

I'm lucky to have some true friends.

11:08 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we more socially isolated than 1985? Perhaps.

1) Affordable housing is non-existent in my community - 1/2 of my co-workers are commuting 30-50 minutes a day to get work in the morning. Once they get home, they're not coming back into town.
2) Kids - I know a father who attending Little League 3 nights a week this summer. He knows of other parents who are on the field 5 nights a week.
3) It's harder and harder to pull together a group of people that are not tied together by work or extended families. (My book group of 7 women takes forever to settle on date for the following month.)
4) We drink less. Friendships are often best forged when we do something silly together. It's the conversations that place when someone drops you off at home but you never seem to exit the car but keep yacking away until dawn.

Friendships take time. If you are overbooked, friends move on.




.

11:11 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous stacy said...

My husband is a dear friend. And I also have two good female friends left over from high school (10 years ago, now) with whom I can share anything.

But these two friends live hundreds of miles away, from me and from each other. So though we're in contact all the time via e-mail, I have a serious shortage of people to just spend time with.

I miss that terribly, and sometimes I am very lonely. But I've had trouble making friends as an adult. Being an introvert doesn't help.

However, I'm pregnant. When I have the baby, I will suddenly become part of that mom/kid/suburban universe. Friendship just won't fall into my lap, but it will be much easier to come into regular contact with other women that share my interests. I feel for people who don't have children, and don't have the parenting network to rely on.

My mother is 59, and seriously depressed. (She's been in treatment for almost 4 years now, but has mostly failed to respond. She's a serious case.) One of her huge problems is that when my Dad divorced her a few years ago, she didn't have any close friends at all to turn to. She's a negative person who has always operated on an "I don't need anybody" wavelength. She's tried to rely on her 3 children for emotional support once Dad left, but we can't give her what she needs. She responds by getting more bitter and more isolated.

If she's taught me nothing, she's taught me to treasure and WORK on my friendships, however few they may be. A healthy individual needs friends.

11:13 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm in group that has my husband as my best friend. I've got a lot of friendly acquaintances, but nobody I'd particularly confide in. I just never had the need to share my deepest darkest secrets with anyone other than my husband. And when he has annoyed men to the point where I absolutely have to complain or burst, I tell him instead of complaining about him to someone else.

I wonder if, perhaps, it's partly that the definition of friendship that has changed rather than people's relationships to each other?

But I believe, as well, that the deline of communities has contributed to isolation. The center of the local community used to be the schools and churches, and this is how we knew our neighbors. But now children are bussed across town to consolidated schools, and people flock to huge megachurches with thousands in attendance. It's easy to get lost in all that.

11:14 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous gypink said...

I readily affirm the loss of intimacy in our culture today. In some way, we have come to the point of where we understood communinism to be in Russia some years ago.
In my own life it is difficult to find someone to confide in. Marriage is supposed to be a sacred institution where two become one, and furiously defend each other against outsiders. Three marriages have shown me that you cannot lay credence any longer to life mates being confidants.
We really need look no further than what is happening in the MSM with so much being "leaked" to the press.
Like in communistic communities, telling secrets has become lucrative; keeping secrets is passe.
Seems the old adage still stands true, if you want to keep something secret, keep it secret.

11:32 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been fairly socially isolated (I'm a male in my late 40's). I've usually had perhaps 1 good friend at any time. I'm a single father with 1 late teen son and 1 very early twenties son that I only met a few years ago (people who hear even part of his story are totally floored). My ex comes to visit once a week; I pay her to clean the house but it's really to help with our son. Thankfully we're still good friends. I kinda had a falling out with my family when I took in my oldest and the loss of that support group isn't easy, especially now. I get overwhelmed sometimes as my oldest is looking for work and my youngest is looking for himself (and not finding anyone there).

As far as trying to see what impact increasing social isolation has on people, I don't think it will show up all that well on any radar screens. It might not change any measurable metrics by all that much. I think our character is formed at a fairly early age, and at that time, most people generally have a solid group of friends. At least that's what I've seen.

But I think that any increasing social isolation would have a disproportionate impact on people who are already "not on solid ground": people with big emotional problems, people who grew up in bad environments, people without much education, etc.

11:45 AM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Pogo said...

C. S. Lewis wrote about the unique and valuable nature of friendships. It made me uncomfortable, for it made me see how my circle of friends, once very big and satisfying, has narrowed, no, atrophied, over time.

The causes are partly those cited in the article. But in addition, the culture of work is really only able to support a more minor kind of 'affection for the familiar', rather than friendship, amongst co-workers. At work the political infighting and transience suggest that investing your heart seems foolish.

More simply, one can like co-workers, but not trust them much. After high school, any lack of permanence in job and housing will make an enduring friendship unlikely.

11:54 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No real life friends. Internet friends, sure.

Why? Constant moving. Working odd hours. Being unemployeed. Did I mention constant moving?

There was no incentive to make friends when you don't know if you're going to be there next year.

Financial problems and being unemployeed does not put me in the mood to deal with people and making friends.

And working 6pm to 6am is an odd shift, which makes it difficult to meet people or do group things.

I'm currently working a more regular shift, but more worried about losing my job than going out and being social. Being social takes money too.

11:57 AM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really identify with the idea that having to work extra to either pay off debt or avoid more debt is a factor in isolation. Sometimes the stress gets to be so much that all you feel like doing is blinking at the television, no matter what is on. I also think debt brings on shame and that leads to isolation as well.

12:23 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Doug Floyd said...

I've been in ministry for over twenty years and I've noticed the lack of deep long-lasting friendships even in the church. In the early 90s this is part of what drove me out of oragnaized church with no plans to return.

I went back to school and studied relationships and community building becuase I sensed this deep whole that pervaded many lives in our society.

Eventually I started a church that was focused on staying small and building lifelong relationships in hopes that this would begin a patterning process to help foster intimate relationships.

A few years ago, we hosted a retreat on frienship and most of those who attended had never hear friendship mentioned as a value within the church.

This is sad. Augustine wrote and lived a life of deep relationships. To hear him speak of his friends is the way we speak of lovers.

There are probably multiple causes including our mobility, our prosperity and even one of our chief values: individualism.

I think the beauty of American individualism is contrasted with the profound lack or fear of intimacy. Other cultures may not enjoy our prosperity but I have witness amazing intimacy and willingness to enter into deep, relationships among other cultures.

It is intersting that many Americans find relationships possible on the Internet. I think some form of relationships is possible and I enjoy interacting with people. But the Internet is disembodied. It is an abstraction, and this fits in a society that is more comfortable in abstractions but not as comfortable in the vulgar (as Luther would say) earthiness of our existance.

12:31 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Gibbie the labrat said...

My wife and I have a fair amount of friends, but in the last year almost all of them have moved away or got kids. So now we are mostly friendless. It's a transitory stage; I just finished my PhD, she's just about to. We'll move in a year or two and that will be that. We'll have to find new friends. Maybe excess work and a mobile population would more define the lack of friends. You could argue that if we're so mobile, we can easily go visit our friends. Yet who has time for that? My (at one time) best friend lives in NJ, I saw him last year, but I don't contact him much at all. It's too bad.

12:32 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Last year my then 8 year old was involved in a terrible accident which left her in the hospital for over a month, 1 week in intensive care. Up until that moment I had believed that our family, 2 girls 1 boy and a working mom and dad, were fairly isolated and would be in trouble should some tragedy occur.

One of the marvelous things, aside from my daughter recovering, was learning just how many strangers stepped up and helped. The kindness of strangers was until then something I didn't believe in. When it happened it moved both my wife and I to the core. The kind and good things that people did for us without our asking just simply blew us away. Now we seek to return the favor any way we can.

I guess the point of this is to say to those who are alone as I have been from time to time is life is full of surprises. Additionally say hello to more people, its shocking how well people soak up kindness.

12:35 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Dave in Ohio said...

A real variety of answers! My theory - each of us has only so much of themselves they are able or willing to invest in others, and it varies from person to person. I'm not comfortable getting personal or vulnerable, so I only reveal myself completely to my wife. I'll admit I'm sensitive and easily hurt, and my wife is the only person I completely trust not to hurt me. Do I miss not having other close friendships? No! I have a lot of acquaintances that I can exchange pleasantries with, but I don't want or need anything from them other than that, and I don't necessarily want to give a lot to them without knowing them well enough to trust them. I have family and a few folks that I can call on in times of need, and they know they can call on me, but we don't hang out or get conversational much. And then there's my wife; I know I can give her as much as she gives me, on a level far deeper than any other relationship. I like it like that.

You know, familiarity really can breed contempt. Someone may seem interesting or nice when you first meet them, but sooner or later the warts appear - yours and theirs - and you have to make the decision to go to the next level and love the warts or back off. Because of my makeup, I've learned to back off and not ruin a good acquaintanceship; I can stay non-judgmental and like the person more if I know less about them, and I assume the same is true of them for me. That way, we can all get along.

12:42 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Silvermine said...

I think it's harder because people move around a lot. People don't stay in the same town anymore... and long distance relationships (even platonic!) are hard to keep up. I have a lot of people who are more than just acquiantances, but defiantely not someone I could confide in. I just don't know them well enough.

You can have great conversations with people over distances, but I think that you need to have shared experiences and actual face-to-face time to really make a lasting connection. And, like I said, people move too much to keep those relationships going.

12:45 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Mr. Snitch said...

1) People have strange ideas about who their friends are. They think they 'should' have friends, so if asked, rather than face embarassment they point to co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, labeling them 'friends'.

2) 'Internet friends' can be friends, I suppose. But shut your blog down for 6 months and see who still wants to write. THOSE are your 'internet friends'. The rest want traffic.

3) It's rather startling that few of the commenters here have noted that the best way to make friends is to be a friend. It may be that few of us know how to be someone's friend. We know how to social-climb, we know how to get along with the crowd, we know how to attract people with money, fame, sex or power, we know how to intimidate or be a sycophant. But being a friend has nothing to do with any of that.

I've heard Helen interact on enough Podcasts now to suspect that she is someone who knows how to be a friend. I bet she has more real friends than most people. She listens, remembers, and is empathetic. That's half the battle right there.

4) Making your wife/husband 'your best friend' is generally a mistake. It puts too much pressure on the relationship. Better you should have a number of very good friends, people you can confide in and trust. Then your wife/husband can fully occupy that special place that wives and husbands should occupy, rather than serving double duty as 'best friend'. (Chances are, your spouse already has too many labels as is... mister-fix-it, psychiatrist, social co-ordinator, financier...)

5) The reason to have friends is not to have people to exploit. It's not even so you have someone to lean on (although that could happen). The reason to have friends is to put a better face on humanity. If we're totally isolated, the world is a relentlessly hostile place. ('People are strange, when you're a stranger...')

6) One reason we don't all have more friends is that we place socio-economic constraints on friendships. It's not just Indians who have locked themselves into a caste system. If you're a cop, are all your friends cops, firemen, and blue-collar workers? If you're a successful writer, how many plumbers have you had over for dinner? (An unsuccessful writer might BE a plumber, hence the stipulation.) If you're Catholic, have you ever gone on a picnic with a Baptist group? If you graduated from Yale, how many of your friends went to state schools? If you're an "A-list" blogger (yes, I find the term noxious as well), how many "Z-list" bloggers do you link? How many newsstand vendors do you suppose Donald Trump counts among his close friends?

What's sad is that we make these distinctions largely because our friends are chosen partly because they enhance us. A Trump party (not that I mean to pick on him) is a celebration of wealth and power, not a chance to renew friendships. Degrees from certain colleges aren't accomplishments so much as social distinctions (no matter how badly you may have screwed up your life, you still went to Harvard). Religious denominations are subtly (sometimes not so subtly) taught to be wary of those lesser denominations.

And so it goes. One reason we make few friends is because there are certain people with whom such a relationship is unthinkable. It turns out, there are many more people with whom we can never have such a relationship, than those we can.

7) The hardest part of friendship is forgiveness. Even Jesus' friends fled when the going got tough, but he forgave them. We don't. That's how we turn friends into enemies. Once you've turned a friend into an enemy, you think twice about making another friend.

12:56 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/living/14884845.htm

Touching article. The couple who showed up for the graduation were friends that I don't think that kid knew he had until just that moment.

1:03 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment thread is amazing in and of itself for all the potential anthropological data. I wonder how strong the Internet-skew is, since, at least arguably, people who can spend lots of time on blogs are not spending that time in the company of actual human beings.

I come from an "old world" culture where one's tight circle of friends - no more than half a dozen plus their significant others - was the be all and end all of one's world. One's family, essentially. Talk all the time, hang out all the time, go on trips together, essentially run like a pack; then co-raise one another's children and grow old together.

In America, it's very difficult to keep such a culture going, and, frankly, unnecessary (since it was the nightmare economic and political situations of the old world that led to such a culture in the first place - a plague of which we in America are thankfully free).

So, re: "Dyadic withdrawal" after marriage. That's certainly true, but it needn't be.

Greater material prosperity and self-reliance. Ditto.

High mobility of American society (8% of the entire population moves across a county line every year). I think this is a big one. Communicating by email (or even highly sophisticated video conferencing) cannot make up for human closeness and touch. If you are not in someone's physical presence then you are not with them. Period.

In the final analysis its about one's cultural values: if you put a huge premium on just hanging out (as I do) then I believe one way or another you will develop friendships. Friendships are about spending (wasting!) time together. They're not things you squeeze into the five minutes between work and the kids, they're the fundamental part of your life, and what you do with them is spend time.

2:18 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Karol said...

A lot of emphasis in friendship is put on the concept of someone being 'there' for you. The truth is, we rarely really need anything from friends, I guess the knowledge that they would be there if we did is what makes it a friendship. My own take is that a friend is someone with whom you can be completely yourself. Doesn't sound that complicated but letting your guard down is very hard to do.

2:22 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would accept the results of the study as tentatively valid. I'm a 50+ year-old man, happily married, who has no close unrelated friends. I have a few dozen work acquaintances, one good next-door neighbor, a few "distant" friends from previous jobs, and that's it. My only _close_ friend is my wife. I talk to my brother 2000 miles away a couple of times a month, swap e-mails a few times a week.

But I'm weird. I've ALWAYS been a loner.

I know other men who have fairly close personal friends; motorcycle riding buddies, golf partners, fishing pals, other friends that they interact with over long periods. They work together for political causes, in little theater, in community service groups.

It's the 'Net. It makes it possible to have thousands of casual, impersonal, im many cases anonymous acquaintances around the world. I used to do some of those other pastimes and activities, but frankly, surfing the web is more fun.

But i'm weird.

2:23 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger DanO said...

Twenty years doesn't offer much perspective. Isolation is one of the foundations of America. The rugged individual, forging a way into the dangerous frontiers, the immigrant alone at the rail of the ship's deck, the couple starting a family in a sod house on the prairie, all, however disconnected from social intercourse by distance, language, or temperament, were still connected to a dream or vision or hope of what they could, with their own efforts, make real. The experience of America before the rise of mass communications was most often an experience of being left to one's own resources, of self-reliance, even of "living deliberately", in Thoreau's phrase.
This has wrought more good than harm and built a nation more good than evil. The individual is in disrepute in an age of groupthink and identity politics, but is still the principal force behind most creative and entrepreneurial efforts. Individualism, and a willingness to stand apart or even alone, is a cornerstone of the metaphysics of America.

2:45 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, there are various catagories of friends. The ones you can call anytime, day or night, and can completely confide in are a rarer type. I never had those kinds of friends until I got into AA. And some of them I don't see or talk to very often. Most are men (like me) and one is a woman. Even in AA, it takes time to find them amd one must choose wisely.

4:05 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

ok, i am in the Uk, so its not like it is in america, but i have one best friend my fiance, everyone else is either someone i know or a friend, or an acquaintence. even my family arent my friends just people i know, and you know what.. i dont mind, i always was a loner, and i still am, i am very antisocial, i cant stand people. if everyone on the planet vanished tomorrow, apart from my fiancee, i wouldnt miss them.

i dont trust people, i been burned, i dont see anyone i went to school with, they all have lives, jobs, wives, kids, and they dont have time for me, so they faded me out of their lives. i have felt lonliest in a crowd of 2000, the feeling of invisibility, but then again i have always lived in my head, with my imagination my books, my stories. in the past there were hermits, they retreated from the world, and thats whats happening now, people are retreating from this increasingly chaotic, uncomfortable world with plagues, wars leaders of the countries betraying the ideals of that country and so on, its safer its easier to live inside than in the real world, and they go into their own heads their own mental worlds where no one can hurt them, or they have groups or gangs to feel part of something.

one of the posters saying its a bad idea to make your wife your best friend, its stupid, your wife is someone who should be there for you, with you, someone that knows you and understands you so well that no words need be spoken to each other just the knowledge of the love of each other. if you dont make your wife someone close to you, or your husband, then you will get more divorces, due to the feeling of isolation and no one understands me, within a relationship.

we are becoming modern day hermits. i want to be left alone, to not bother anyone, or be a bother to anyone. if i had the money i would have a small comfortable house, with food delivered, and never see anyone by my love, but thats just me.

4:14 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous M.E. Lopez said...

This is amazing -- both the study and the comments.

I guess I would define "friend" on basically three levels: the wife, the Holy Brotherhood, and the people I trust, respect, love, and (conjunctive) admire.

The wife should be self-explanatory.

The Holy Brotherhood (ineptly named for it contains females as well) numbers about 22. Ten of the Brotherhood were my groomsmen at my wedding. These are the friends I see (in person) as often as possible (monthly or even bi-weekly for those who are local, once a year or two for those 3000+ miles away), and for whom I would readily sell my house, quit my job, or do anything else that was needed short of divorcing my wife. They are the people dearest to me, who in various aspects are everything I wish myself to be. They are the people I take vacations with, whom I talk with, the people I go to because (no offense, Helen) I don't believe in therapy for anything less than full-blown psychosis. (Therapists are for people who don't have friends.) They are the people in whom I place the trust of my absolute loyalty and confidence -- people who have earned it, and who have demonstrated the highest ideals of conscience, morality, and loyalty, who will not abuse that trust. They are some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

Then there are my "friends" -- those for whom I might commit minor crimes, who can get me out of bed at three in the morning to come do something for them, with whom I pass fun and relaxing hours and days, and for whom I have a genuine affection. They don't number more than 30, perhaps 35. I don't always speak with my friends on a regular basis... some of them I have not spoken to in over three years, while others I see every month or so. As with the Holy Brotherhood, it depends on proximity to a great degree. But there is no question in my mind that I would be there for them, that they would be there for me, and that when I do eventually see them, we will have a magnificent time of it.

Friendships take time and effort to develop -- it's not something that happens overnight and the commentators who have noted that it requires lots of lazy, talking time are absolutely correct.

And it's also something that requires that you be willing to make judgments about which people are good people and which are not. You must be willing to say that some people are simply better than others. And you must also be willing to be disliked as well as liked -- it's impossible to be genuine and to please everyone all of the time, and if you are not truly and honestly yourself with your friends, you can never be truly at ease, and can never be appreciated for who you are.

I have been blessed with a great number of truly outstanding friends, and I treasure them all.

4:34 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen-

I can only speak from my experience but I have three people I count as friends. A friend being defined as someone you can call at 3 am and will fly cross country to bail you out of jail. The remainder are good aquaintances but not friends. I keep the number of friends small because those relationship are usually intense since you discuss any and everything freely with straight advice given and received gratefully. Well....maybe you are not gratefull when the advice is given but later....

4:35 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous M.E. Lopez said...

By way of example... if I have a party at my house that isn't for a particularly special occassion, it will be attended by the "Local Chapter" of the Holy Brotherhood (between 6-12 people), my nearby friends (another 4-16 people), and perhaps a smattering of acquaintances (0-14 people). The ranges depend on the size and type of gathering. A poker party will have a larger draw from "friends" while a wine tasting party (for some odd reason) will have a larger draw of acquaintances. A movie night will probably have a higher draw from the Holy Brotherhood than from any other group, while a pool party is likely to be well-balanced.

And yes, I know. It's a silly name, the Holy Brotherhood. But it really encapsulates how I feel about them. I mean it.... the deepest friendships are a sacred trust, an nigh-irrevocable pledge. And those who betray that trust... are never forgiven.

Never.

We're still waiting to see who's going to be the first.

-M

4:40 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger DanO said...

Looking back at my comment, and rereading Doug Floyd's, I am also reminded that Americans have always formed institutions such as churches, the Grange, towns, clubs and associations whenever there were enough people (or likeminded people) in the area. Common causes have usually been the glue which held communities together--how to start a school, for instance, or an irrigation plan or a cemetary association. This is true even into the current century.

Though most of our ancestors came here because of some idea, often economic or religious, their drive was to realize it in a concrete way, even at the cost of relationships in the old country. Americans' capacity for abstract thought has made for a culture and economy fraught with individual inventiveness, purpose and drive. These qualities lead to observable results. Individuals invent, make farms and businesses, write opinion columns, music and novels. All of these entail interaction not only with a larger society of customers, consumers, brokers and buyers, or readers and listeners, many of whom may be faceless; but also entail relationships with allies and neighbors.

Americans also band together face-to-face around concrete solutions to problems, such as building a school or barn, creating a homeless shelter, revitalizing a neighborhood, raising funds with a fish fry, or voting some scoundrel out.

Well-adjusted Americans know to whom they can turn and on whom depend when there are problems, and though it may not fit some definitions of intimacy, deep bonds are forged between individuals who engage in purposeful actions together. This may not result in much talking about it. Actions speak louder than words. We go to the home and take food when there's a death. We show up to make the signs and banners, or fry the fish. We pull together at moments of crisis. Someone calls to say s/he saw your kid smoking cigarettes, then usually apologizes for being nosy. But you're not altogether sorry someone did that, nor are you likely to object to being on a committee with that person, or thirty committees over a lifetime, warts and all. That could remain a superficial relationship over time, but is as likely to become a substantial one, even if there's still a certain distance. And it may be more important than hanging out and drinking beer, or sharing your deepest thoughts with someone who's not a therapist or religious leader--or spouse or brother or mother. How much intimacy--with how many people--is enough, after all? And how quickly does it get watered down?

In and of itself, isolation, affording as it does time for reflection and even singleminded pursuit of some theory, such as "there could be such a thing as an electric light bulb" or "I must pray for guidance and salvation", does not seem to me a bad thing. It can be and frequently has been precursor to the realization of some new thing, be it a barn or a friendship or some other relationship.

I also want to say, maybe apropos to none of the above, that in the formative (for America) age of faith, which is not altogether gone yet, many isolated people didn't feel alone because they believed they were always in the company of God. Abstract? Well, yes, but also substantial, useful, and not necessarily ill-adjusted.

Obviously I am spending a lot of time alone today, unless interacting with a blog counts as social interaction! But I am sometimes in society and sometimes out of it; with friends, family, or neighbors, or being a hermit; chairing the committee or snoozing on the porch.

4:42 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Stacy McMahon said...

If you buy into Malcom Gladwell's analysis (or his research, really. He's mostly quoting the conclusions of studies that I assume pass scientific muster) friends are overrated. Most people's friends are more or less whoever's handy, and tend to be local. If someone moves to a different city, they keep few of their old friends and make a bunch of new ones, which also mostly don't last through the next move.

This sounds like a "good old days" argument to me. People may feel isolated, but they always have. It may be a little more obvious in a mobile society where you just don't have time to gossip over the back fence. In fact, maybe it is simply that we're all busier today than we may have been in decades past, and so we don't make time for any but the friends we know we want to invest in.

4:52 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Mr. Snitch said "If you're Catholic, have you ever gone on a picnic with a Baptist group?"

Ironically, I am a Catholic who went on a Baptist picnic just this morning in Cades Cove.

4:54 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 5:40 says "I'm a loner by nature and very happy that way."

Me too! I have a life-long friend, but I've not talked to him in 2-3 years and haven't seen him in close to 10. I haven't called him and he hasn't called me, but eventually when one of us does we'll pick up like we talked yesterday. Then go back into hibernation mode :-)

I've always liked the line in the movie "Heat" where the girl with a large family asks the DeNiro character with no family who lives alone, whether he's lonely. He replies, "I live alone, but I'm not lonely." Sums it up nicely, though a fictional bank robber as an example may not make a viable point!

5:36 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous "Eric Blair" said...

Kudos to Dr. Helen for bringing up such a great comment...and hats off to the commenters. As usual, I learn a lot from reading the posts and comments.

Some people appear to like having friends, while others are indifferent. To each their own, of course. I'm in the former category.

I too have found I seem to have few friends. My wife is my best friend, as is my brother. But folks in my life have tended to fade away---everyone is busy, and involved in other things. And friendships take energy and commitment. I haven't been good at maintaining contacts, so I cannot complain.

But...

I thought of this the other day, speaking to my retired father, who delivers food for his local "Meals on Wheels" program. So many elderly people are completely alone, and he sees it every day on his delivery route.

It reminded me that if I wanted connections, I would need to invest some time and effort into making and maintaining those connections.

Nothing at all wrong with believing that you don't need friends. Or that they are too expensive. But you can't change your mind, at the end of your life.

I often am too tired and distracted to reach out to friends, old and new. Then I think about a friend from high school who has religiously kept in touch with me, even when I wasn't terribly interactive with him. He is busy too, but values chatting with me and being involved in my life. It mattered to him, and this it matters to me.

Again, a choice exists for everyone. But I like interactions with other people, and being involved with their lives. So I invest the time.

Your mileage may vary.

"Eric Blair"

7:10 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Mary N. said...

The dynamics of family life used to be communal, in the not-too-distant past -- that is, everyone had a vital role to play in day-to-day maintenance of life, even the kids. With the advent of technology came ~freedom~ from tiresome chores, and time to explore past one's own back yard --

-- as witnessed in the feminist movement, among other things --

So, everyone started ~finding themselves~ beyond the Kansas Farm. Then the computer revolution -- and cable TV, and video games -- put the seal on self-directed time.

Simply put -- we don't NEED to go out anymore (much), and, for the millions of us who absolutely dislike too much social interaction, today's culture is a godsend.

But at what price?

8:55 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

helen:

you have people you can count on but you wouldn't call them friends? what gives?

9:32 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Crankyguy said...

The anonymous post above reminds me that we all have different definitions of the word "friend."

When I was younger, I used to get so angry that my "friends" weren't there for me the way I tried to be there for them. I got resentful and bitter.

Then I got a dog.

My dog thought I was swell no matter what. I don't have to fill in all the Twin quotes about dogs, right?

Anywhooo, my understanding of the "dog" bit allowed me to quit being so demanding of my "friends," and use a reciprocal kind of definition: if folks worked hard to be my friend, I reciprocated. If someone didn't reach out, I didn't either.

Thus, I have a few great friends and a bunch of people with whom I enjoy hanging out. I also understand that I am incredibly lucky to have more than one person in that first category.

My advice means little...but do think about what *you* mean when you say "friend." It helped clarify things for me.

9:42 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Mel said...

When I think of my friends, excluding my husband, I think of three people. They aren't the only friends I have, but they are my closest ones. Of them, I see one once or twice a month, one hardly ever but we talk on the phone at least once a week, and one at least once a week for lunch. My friend that I see once a week for lunch is a co-worker from another office. We get together for lunch when everyone else is driving us crazy. I could call any of these 3 any time day or night for anything and they'd be fine with it. And I'd answer the phone for them the same way.

Do I have other friends? Sure I do, four of them have brought dinner for my family since my baby was born 12 days ago. Could I talk to any of them about anything? Some yes, some no. Would I help them if they needed it? yes, undoubtedly. But I wouldn't expect them to call me first.

Am I isolated? Probably. I do it to myself though. I'm an Aspie. I don't really enjoy being around a lot of other people. Give me a glass of tea, a beautiful view, and a good book any day.

10:49 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Jeffus said...

Staying diverted or entertained used to require friends (community dances, parties, pot luck suppers, bingo, etc) but now entertainment and diversion are so pervasive and so adaptable to individual tastes (dvds, cds, hundreds of channels, internet chat, single player games, etc) that the main driving force for forming friendships has sort of disappeared.

11:43 PM, June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am totally socially isolated. I'm not sure when it happened, but, as you say, in the 80s, I had alot of friends and people I could count on. Now in 2006 I have one good friend who has been a life long friend. I met her when we were both 13, but she lives 4 states away and we only get to visit about once every other year. It's strange but I have met more people through my BLOG online that know much more about me than anyone in real life knows.

11:52 PM, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Robert Tatum said...

I have a lot of friends that I can confide in. They are from my hometown, college, places of employment, and church. I try to keep in touch with many of them through e-mail and telephone, but most of them are way too busy. Life gets in the way most of the time. If we were in the same town, it would be easie because you could call or drive over to see them. But when they live far away it is harder.

I have three friends that I would call my "best" friends:

One, who is an accountant and I was the best man at his wedding.

Two, a substitute teacher who always has something positive to say.

Third, a hr employee at a major newspaper who always has time to listen.

I value all of their opinions when I can talk to them.

I talk to #1 five times a day.

#2 I have not talked to recently.

#3 We see each other at church.

12:26 AM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous dicentra said...

I had friends up through college, but then they all got married and moved away. I failed to get married. So their lives have taken an entirely different track than mine: some of them are marrying off their children, and here I am not having started a family at all!

They just don't have time for me. And I can't really relate to most of what they're going through. While in college, I had college in common with my friends. Now there's nothing.

And at church, it's also the same thing: they're all raising kids or grandkids. And I'm probably the only one there with an advanced degree. Or a blog addiction. So there's nothing for me to talk about with them.

I see the isolation as a bad thing. If we feel little or no loyalty or cohesion towards each other, if there's no sense of community, we're more likely to be indifferent when something bad happens to someone somewhere else. Less likely to develop unselfishness. More likely to be rude in public. The epidemic of being loud and talkative in movie theaters is one example.

I wish I had more friends, but I haven't the faintest idea where to find them. I don't make enough contact with people at work to make friends there. I used to belong to an Internet community (and made many good friends, some of whom I've met), but we ended up having too many fallings-out and strife. I don't know where all these clubs are that you're supposed to join to make friends. I took a class once to see if I could make a friend, and had absolutely no success.

People say that you should "get out there" to meet people. Can someone tell me the address for "there"? Has anyone actually made friends by getting "out there"? How did you do it?

1:17 AM, June 26, 2006  
Blogger GayPatriotWest said...

A post which makes me think. About two weeks ago, I wrote that I thought "gay men (indeed, men in general) use casual sex as a means to feel something without dealing with the difficulties of genuine connection — and genuine emotion."

From my observation of the gay (male) community, it seems too many of us are afraid of confiding in another as that might make us appear vulnerable.

You wonder what this means in terms of people's behavior. I think it's why we've become an increasingly sexualized society -- and not just the gay world. Sex, as it provides physical closeness, gives us the illusion of real closeness, if just for a moment.

It's not easy to give a real (as opposed to "Hallmark Card") definition of a friend, but I would say it's someone with whom you feel comfortable being yourself -- and someone on whom you can count in moments of genuine need. I realize there's more to it than that, but that's a start.

Great post which keeps me thinking.

1:53 AM, June 26, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

friends let you down, friends become enemies, as one poster said, i share little with these people anymore, i am 33 and we havent had a reunion yet, but non of us are interested, they each have their own hectic lives to run. people are working harder just for the basics, rather than taking the time to go out, when work is more important than leisure then something is seriously wrong, stop.. and look around you at life. then you may find friends if you need them, if you dont its a valuable time.

4:35 AM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt there's been much real change in the past twenty or so years in the number of close friends individuals have. None of the 'causes' mentioned in the article are anything new in human history...working long hours, moving frequently, long commutes, etc.

As for email, once people wrote letters to each other to maintain relationships, and often through those letters were put in touch with other people, sometimes in different countries, with whom they then developed a friendly correspondance. Were those relationships also 'superficial', as some say email communications with people we may never meet face-o-face are today? Not necessarily, in my opinion.

Another thought; people's perceptions of their own situations today are colored by what's reported in the media, usually relentlessly in a dozen different ways. For how long have we been warned that our society is being 'fragmented', first by the Industrial Age, then by The Technological Age and The Information Age? I'm not convinced that society, American society, has been 'fragmented' by these changes. What we have been taught is to see ourselves as victims of forces over which we have little control AND that this is something new in the history of mankind. But it isn't. Change is THE constant for any society and always has been, even primitive ones, and people adapt and/or try to influence the changes because they have to. Losing contact with old friends and stressing about making new ones is as old as the hills.

Also, that study takes no account of the differences in personalities and character in people. Some make and keep friends easily, others don't. Some don't care to have a lot of friends or even any, others yearn for them but don't make much effort to have them. One size (number of friends) doesn't fit all. But a lot of people will read the article about the study and assume something is wrong with them or with their lives because they don't have three or more close friends! Maybe there isn't.

I don't consider friends to be commodities, service providers we keep handy for emergencies. Friends are people you enjoy being with, learning about, sharing yourself with, sharing interests, and who are ready to help (depending on resources) in times of need. Like all human relationships risk is involved, and some people are greater risk-takers than others.

This discussion is very provocative. A thought occurs to me: a friend should be someone you are willing to get to know really, really well, the good and the bad, to understand what drives them, what they truly want from the relationship, how much effort they are willing to put into it. So maybe we should make ourselves our 'best' friend, first.

5:49 AM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years ago I was diagnosed with actual social anxiety disorder, prescribed medication for it (I stayed on Paxil about a year and then went off of it), and I think I still have a bit of anxiety around large groups, but it's not too horrifying. Anyhow, I started writing a post saying I'm not sure if I have too many friends, but after I thought about it-- I guess I do.

There are lots of people I'm friendly with online- my blogging is via Livejournal, which is arranged as a community, I play D&D with some guys once a week. (haha, yeah, I'm a dork). I think I have had the best experience with social interactions in my D&D group. It's weekly, it's regulated, and it's fun. I also talk to people online and in hobby-related circles.

I don't think it's one of those "I confide everything in these guys" sort of friendships or anything, but these are friends.
In retrospect I think most of my friends have been related to some group activity or another.

-Peter

8:09 AM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am terminally shy and have a hard time making new friends. To me, it doesn't help that I live in the largest city in Canada.
A few years back I moved cities to be with people I thought I would be friends with but it never materialized and I sunk into depression (as I have many, many times). Eventually I gave up on that city and moved back to where I was before. I found you cannot run away from yourself; you're already there when you arrive.
I don't want to drag down friends when I get depressed so I tend to withdraw. When I asked someone (who was once a friends and is now an acquaintance only) what a group of his friends thought of me, they did not see me as shy and withdrawing; they saw me as a snob!
I try to think of myself as a "lone wolf" but I am not. I am just the mangy pack member circling the group, trying to figure out where I might fit in, even only for a while

8:25 AM, June 26, 2006  
Blogger MNLarry said...

I'd like to add one more dynamic to the mix, and that is, that in the last 20 years, what passes for intimacy has been eroded by American society's degeneration into a "Jerry Springer" world where shameless public airing of personal foibles and debilitating history makes almost anyone a potential intimate/confidant. Who needs friends when it's somewhat accepatable for you to casually pour your heart out to the guy in the next cubicle at work?

The Fifties were supposed to be an age of personal "repression", and from the Sixties on down to today, we as a society have become so comfortable with our self-expression that we have failed to notice how we have blurred the line between what ought to be privately shared with intimates, and what we ought to show to others in our public lives. Talking in a movie theater? Sure, you're less polite when the room is filled with non-threatening potential friends. Casual dress in church and on airplanes? That's just Me being Me, and since I'm OK, then you're OK. We might have been more repressed in the Fifties, but we were a more polite society than now.

Sure, Jerry Springer is at one extreme end of the continuum, but this effect (with others) has pulled us all away from having a sensible private life, and in one sense, has made it too easy for us to reach out to strangers when we look for intimacy or emotional release. I'd like to argue that what we lack is a current strong social convention that expects matters to stay private and for people to be less publically intimate, and leave the confidential matters to people (family, clergy,and maybe just a few others) who either share large chunks of your history, or those with whom you parsimoniously deign to share your private life.

Yes, I do understand the irony that even though I'm making an argument for people to keep more of their opinions to themselves, I just gave you mine...

10:51 AM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Dr Helen lie as much as her mendacious husband does?

Any sensible person should stay well away from anything coming out of these two miscreants.

12:57 PM, June 26, 2006  
Blogger Atticus said...

Anyone want to lay bets on how many friend anonymous 12:57 makes on this blog?

Thank you to the commenter who pointed out that the best way to make friends is to be a friend. Another point to remember is that your friends will let you down--you have to have enough patience to let them mess up. An unforgiving attitude doesn't make friends.

1:49 PM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if friends are important to you...

are we as a group producing a higher percentage of people who don't feel the need to have many friends? I think THAT may be the case more than this change happens to an existing group of people. I remember my grandparents entertaining friends all the time, my own parents substatially less so, I myself can't imagine having a "cocktail party". I don't know that many people, and they are scattered to the 4 winds. Virtual keeping in touch is pretty much it, because of that. That being said, I am certainly not setting myself as a prototype... but I know I'm not the only one. In many ways friendship is not JUST being one, but, a context or backdrop is required. The rub for that is all the specialization in our lives. We tend to push that through... When you get hitched and have kids, you family can turn SO nuclear that it doesn't seem right to 'waste' you energy outside of it. Human Doings, as they say. You work a lot and so you want to spend quality time with the family. You could spend quality time with other families, but the schedules would have to sync. It can be hard to do that with family, even.

If all that is true, the question really is, is it a problem to not have so many friends? It's different, yes. The ramifications are not yet known...
and perhaps that scares some people...

8:21 PM, June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friendless Yanks & Sexless Canucks

A quarter of Americans say they have no one ... Well, slightly more than a quarter of Canadians aren't getting any...No sex, please, we're Canucks, We're becoming prudes toward sex, with no time for it, no energy for it and no taste for it. (No taste for it?)

I truly wonder if it was all that different 30-50 years ago. How much of "intimate social ties" was based on necessity? My family didn't own two cars until 1975. Prior to having their own set of wheels, moms had to rely on friends to get things done. And in rural communities, farming and ranching required outreach to your neighbors.

In a service economy, if you have a job which is people-intensive, all you want to do after work is wind down. Stoking friendships takes real effort.

An ability to withdraw from friendships and from sex (from marriage/partnership) is a luxury. I'm not convinced that the friendless xanax-taking women of today are more or less angst ridden than the sociable valium-taking women of the early 1960s.

(For the record, I'm sexless but not friendless and reasonably content. There are a handful of people outside of family and work I can call on and I'm grateful for their presence in my life.)

11:54 AM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous cassandra said...

I know this isn't about the elderly specifically, but I'm 57 and one thing I have observed about older people is a tendency to cut friends off--forever!--over perceived slights and disagreements. Maybe it's actually years of resentment, bursting out in the Ultimate Sanction: making the offender a Nonperson. This certainly can result in social isolation!

It's truly sad, and feel the urge now and then myself and I don't like it in myself. And I've been around the elderly enough to realize that they are awfully hard on each other; they're not the gray-haired quasi-teenyboppers depicted in Coccoon by any means.

Also, I don't understand why older people want to pick up and move to Florida, away from old family and friends. It's as if they really despised them, but then they try to patch things up at a distance once they realize what they've lost. Seems crazy to pull up all roots just to avoid snow or whatever.

12:26 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Sawyer said...

As usual...THE SKY IS FALLING according to "researchers."

1:39 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

"dicentra"'s situation mirrors my own in many important respects. I have friends, but never feel those closeness to them I felt with the friends of my younger days. One perhaps peculiar aspect of my own situation is that the friends I have made in the past two decades have all been opposite-sex friends. (That is, female. I am a straight male.) I would really like one or two strong, close friendships with men, plus a group of buddies.

I often think of a scene in the sitcom MAD ABOUT YOU wherein Paul Reiser is talking about building something (I forget what) and Helen Hunt reminds him that he lacks the skills or experience for such a project. He says, "I'll have some of the guys over." She says: "'Guys'? You don't have any guys!" This takes him aback for a second or two, then he admits: "You're right. I have no guys!" I, too, have no guys!

Part of the reason is that it is hard to cultivate male friendships without homophobia casting a pall over the process. Will he think I'm Gay? Is he Gay? If I ask him out, would that be a date? Etc., etc. I find it much easier to make friends with women; but then I am told my relationships with women are somewhat peculiar. I am told I am unusual for the number of "exes" with whom I say friends; and in fact all my close female friendships, with maybe two exceptions, are women I have been sexually involved with: girlfriends, or "Friends With Benefits" whom I have stayed friends with after the benefits stopped. I find sex is a marvelous ice-breaker, but unfortunately that is not an option for me with men.

The other problem is the city I am living in. I was born, grew up, in, and lived my first decade as an independent adult in New York City. Then I got myself marooned in a sun-belt city I won't name here but that I think of as "the Anti-Manhattan." Whereas in Manhattan I was virtually swimming, as it were, in an ocean of culturally literate people, this place is to a large extent a cultural wasteland. As someone once said to me, "There is a cultural life here, but you have to look for it the way a Christian in Nero's Rome had to look for other Christians--very discreetly and with great determination." It is also a very tribalistic city, where nearly everyone falls into a few clearly delineated tribes (Yuppie, Redneck, Ghetto Black, Buppie, Old South Money, New South Wheeler Dealer), none of which I belong to. (You might say, "Why don't you move?" but that's another and far more complicated story, not relevant to the discussion here.)

Of course, people who know me that I am often shy around strangers, and something of a loner. True enough; but I was that way in my younger days and I still had friends.

2:24 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think most Americans are too wimpy to have friends or be friends. They want all the light fluffy goodness without the heavy real-issues-happen-to-real-people stuff. There's even a good deal of psychobabble about it all. In the past, if your husband got hurt in a farm accident and the crops had to be brought in, you could count on the neighbors to help, who would expect the same if something did (and frequently did) happen to them. Same with childbirthing, barn-raising, illness, helping to care for disabled or elderly family members, and so on. Having friends and good neighbors was critical. Reciprocity these days seems to be limited to trite issues, and no one wants to get heavily involved with someone's ongoing serious problems ('cuz it's never gonna happen to them). When you have "friends" who make it clear that they only want to hear the cheery part of your life because of how the negativity might affect them, it's pretty difficult to ask for support when you have something serious happening. But I guess that's why God have us social workers and therapists.

3:42 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger George said...

There are a lot of lonely people.
Our drive to be other-oriented should lead us to be a friend to one of these each day.....
g

4:13 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bilwick:

off point i know, but was glad to see someone in the same position. i'm a straight female and almost all of my friendships are with former lovers. people act like i'm crazy but it seems the most natural thing in the world to me. there are certainly some exceptions, but for the most people i chose for sex partners those individuals that i truly liked beyond the physical attraction. why in the world would we stop being friends just because we didn't make the greatest couple?

however, this has caused some problems with subsequent lovers who weren't too keen on the idea of my spending time with men i had formerly slept with.

andrea

12:37 AM, June 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read so many facinating perspectives here, particularly from those who don't feel that they need friends. I had always assumed that "loners" were in denial. Now I see that it really can be a life choice.

My two cents is that to some extent the notion of deep, dedicated friendship is a myth (though I wish that wasn't the case). I hate to be cynical, but I think that human beings are rarely capable of pure goodness and loyalty in the absence of some self-serving motive.

It seems like the most sincere expression of human companionship is enjoyment (as in humor or shared interests). When it comes to going to the mat for another person, however, I truly believe that at some point the limitations arise.

I do believe that the notion of friends as "enhancers" causes people to constantly wonder if their friends are good enough, and to peruse the landscape for a bigger and better deal. That is pretty gross, and the thought of it could make anyone give up on other members of their species.

2:35 AM, June 28, 2006  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

I just read Dr. Helen's "update" comments on this topic and agree with her about helping your neighbors. I am one of those introverts who quickly find interacting with a lot of people to be both tiring and tiresome. I also value my privacy and "me time." Yet any time I have been in a position where a neighbor has needed my help, it has always given me pleasure to do what I could.

2:43 PM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger AmericanWoman said...

I agree with other posters who say that email and chat rooms have enhanced family and friendships. I don't think I would have survived relocating 900 miles away if not for email. With most of my family spread all over, it is a great way to keep in touch.


One downside is that nowdays 'friendship' to some people means 'networking' and business contacts. That really turns me off.

9:52 PM, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The few good friends I've had, had befriended me. I value them so very much. I try to follow what's going on in their lives. I try to learn something about their interests. I want to be as generous as I can afford to be with them. But I am anxious about being fawning; about being "The black hole of emotional need". I never talk about any strong emotional feelings with anyone. I'm so afraid of being burdensome. I fear anything (emotional, temporal, financial) that I can't reciprocate.
I'm lonely. I'm depressed. I occasionally think about jumping off the bridge.

5:39 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Rowena Hullfire said...

I am a counselor, and it might as well be tattooed on my forehead. Even "off the clock" people find me and discuss their deepest secrets, what's bothering them, etc. I listen, they think out loud, and off they go, problem solved. (I should start carrying a credit card swiper and charging for my services!) Even before I was a counselor, I was the listener that everybody sought out. But it's really hard for me to find someone to listen to me! Maybe that's why I'm such a commentboxer? Pipe my voice into the vast void and hope someone reads my words? If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it....?

My best friend since we were 17 is the main person I can really talk to, but I'm busy and she has 5 kids and we can't even really manage a five minute conversation on the phone. Even if I visit, everyone is clamoring for her attention and the phone is ringing and people are stopping by. She is a social butterfly and dragged me out socially more than I would have when we were younger. She really *knows* me more than any person on this earth. We don't talk often but it's the same comfortable friendship we've always had. Other of our friends come and go but we're rock solid no matter what.

Other than that, my local friends I am most comfortable with are gay men, one a colleague and also my hairstylist and his hubby. That couple really stepped up to the plate when I had to go to a city 2 1/2 hours away for cancer treatment, being unable to drive, no public transportation, had to take my car so my sister flying in could drive me around. They really did something for me. Lots of people will tell you when you have cancer, "Let me know what you need, I'll help out any way I can." Then you ask, and they have an excuse. You really learn who your friends are.

I live far from my family, but don't really want to, it's just that you gotta go where the opportunity is, so you can butter your bread. My dad did it measured in hemispheres, my move is just measured in time zones. But I love their company and hope to retire to my sister's town one day, Lord willing (if I make it to retirement age!).

Her town is a nice little Iowa town, and I feel like I am known and cared about there, too. I am pretty well bonded with the people there. Farm communities are interdependent, I think that is a truer representation of American values and history than the self-reliant frontier loner in Western movies.

I live in a Mayberry-like town in Appalachia, and I love it here in many ways. There is no such thing as a stranger, just someone you haven't talked to yet. But I am very culturally different and will always be an outsider. If it weren't for the job, I wouldn't be here.

I've cultivated a Quaker/Catholic nun approach to loving people--in a disinterested way. Meaning, I desire to be helpful and hospitable to others without expecting anything in return, holding on loosely. I find people so fascinating, it's nice to know them and talk with them and be openhearted towards people. However, I don't really feel much of a need for clingy "particular" friendships.

So, I have people contact in my work, my community involvements, my profession, my hobby (rowing refereeing); but I have equal needs for alone time and thinking. I go sculling on a lake in a remote wildlife area, and it's just me and water and fish and birds and deer and the "runner's high." I indulge my tenderness to my cats and have a vivid relationship with God. My home is a sanctuary, a hermitage for this anchoress, and I really don't want people over.

I am borderline E/I on Myers Briggs, if that explains anything! Equally extroverted, social, comfortable with people, AND intravert, finding people tiring, needing alone time, liking the company of my thoughts.

And other people's thoughts, too, hence blogreading! Thanks for a great discussion question. Enjoyed reading everyone's contributions.

11:04 PM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous ema said...

Bottom Line:
Most people are aholes and I don't need them as friends.

12:43 PM, August 03, 2006  
Anonymous JMdd*shakes said...

The last time I had friends to hang out with,was in 8th grade,and I just
graduated now.
I actually want friends.I see people out,having fun together,and I feel sad because there is nobody to go out with.I also feel like a weirdo,freak or a loser..
Because it seems, (although I know it's not true) that everyone has friends and that I'm just alone,the
only one with none.
I just feel that way.
It's hard to meet people,to find
someone that fits me,to find
someone that is just like me.
People in your live,are mirrors
of yourself..

I wish I could have just one best friend.Someone just like me,thinks like me,and similar interests..etc.
It just feels though,that everyone
is too busy to bother w/me.
People think I have friends, (even though they dont know) seems they think I'm well,and situated,happy w/my life.. But I'm not.
What's really going on is,
I'm wanting friends. and I'm alone.

I just want this to change,desperetly.

11:11 PM, September 04, 2006  
Anonymous littlebutterfly said...

What the hell does 'Dr. Hellen' get off saying, ', I think the need for friends spans a wide spectrum with some of us being outside the "norm"'.. Normal? Where do you get off saying this Hellen?

You are wrong. Some people don't
choose this way, it doesn't mean
that they're freaks,or that there is something wrong with them.But you are putting bad ideas in people's heads..And I'm setting the record straight.
..Just because you may be a social butterfly,Hellen,doesn't give you the right or odacity to cut people who are not as wealthy in social lives, as you..and dubb the lack thereof, as 'unormal', or 'strange.'

This is the reason that I despise
the-rap-ists..(rap-ists cause they rape your mind)because some of them,
have these awful preconceived notions of what is normal,and what is not. That is all highly subjective.

So Hellen, tell me dollface,
is it normal for a pedophile to go out and do sickening things with little kids, but he's ok because he has friends?.. To me, that is not normal. But everyone has their own opions on the matter,and that is just my 5 cents.

11:19 PM, September 04, 2006  
Anonymous graham said...

There is a serious failure to communicate here. I just scanned the posts quickly, but, uh, I'm missing a bit about the pedophiles.

I'm just not getting the connection.

Helen's mused on this topic before. It's one of the more politically neutral subjects in this space even.

I don't see where bringing her perceived wealth or social status is relevant to the topic at hand. Like a lot of us, she's had stuff happen to her that I'm figuring left her feeling pretty isolated for a while. Check out the posts on her heart attack.

As best I can tell, she's just pondering face-time social breakdowns and the use of the Internet as substitute & what that means or might mean.

Pardon me, Helen, if I have put words in your mouth that do not fit properly.

Hey, I was sexually assaulted twice. Once when I was 18. Again when I was 30. I made it through the blood tests, came out clean, countered with blunt force trauma when the time presented itself--with great restraint & with informal sanction, I should add. It happened.

And maybe It wasn't as hard for me because I had the means to even things.

But where's this pedophilia stuff coming from?

2:27 PM, January 25, 2007  
Anonymous graham said...

One more thing...

The whole Lone Frontiersman thing is a myth. Always was. We beat the cave bears because we have opposable thumbs & figure out flint, fire & working together.

I've been stuck in a whole for a long time. I doubt very much I'm unique. Those long nights that shade from black to bleak, that unhealthy looking gray that passes for dawn--that's what I'm conditioned to. I've had a long run of bad luck, some poor decisions, some of which were my own and some of which I just had to bend over and take.

But that doesn't mean I like it.

If there is single reason, aside from me being crazy, of course, if there's anyone here who has a single rational reason why we need to continue to isolate ourselves in our digital monasteries and cubicles and 120 hour works and 10 hour weeks and soak it up like penance, like we deserve it, I'm all ears.

That's where my hair is migrating, anyway.

But I don't think that makes any sense, none at all.

I ain't asking for nothing. But this is who I am.

My name is Graham.
My email is graham.strouse@yahoo.com

And I'm not positive where I'll be in a week or two. But not far. I'll have a phone, email, AIM address and transport.

People are are pretty decent. I wouldn't shout so much (through the ether) if I expected trouble. I'm easy to find. I don't leave friends behind.

And what is a friend, in the end, but someone you can talk to, kill time with with & trust & when the sea boils and the sky burns to keep your back.

It's a point of view, anyway.

G

Ruth 1:16, baby. Except sometimes. Sometimes you just gotta be ruthless.

3:41 PM, January 25, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice site! » »

2:00 AM, April 26, 2007  
Blogger Kearnj said...

I have a tight knit group of friends back "home" as the one person said. I moved out of my home state to be with my girlfriend, who proceeded to dump me. I am now alone, desperate for friends or at least acquaintances who I can share a drink with or what not. I just have a hard time breaking into a group of people, once I'm there I'm fine. I guess introvert by design, but wannabe extrovert.

2:26 AM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only 1 female freind at present. This is a real all time low. It seems that since I don't date, and am unmarried all my single friends have hooked up and have drifted away.

I think the best place to meet new friends is at a community college course.

I will try to muster the strength to go to some courses soon.

But I agree its strange. I also think its harder when you are over 30. It was easier to make friends when I was younger.

5:37 PM, July 14, 2007  
Blogger mmbox said...

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