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NY Times: The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier

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NY Times: The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier

Postby Winston » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:27 pm ... ntain.html

The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier
Published: July 2, 2006


FOR as long as humans have gathered in groups, it seems, some people have been left on the outside looking in. In postwar America in particular, the idea that loneliness pervades a portion of society has been a near-constant. Only the descriptions have changed: the "lonely crowd" alienation of the 1950's; the grim career-driven angst of the 70's and 80's; the "Bowling Alone" collapse of social connections of the 90's.

There is a new installment in the annals of loneliness. Americans are not only lacking in bowling partners, now they're lacking in people to tell their deepest, darkest secrets. They've hunkered down even more, their inner circle often contracting until it includes only family, only a spouse or, at worst, no one.

And that is something the Internet may help ease, but is unlikely to cure.

A recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives — serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.

"The kinds of connections we studied are the kinds of people you call on for social support, for real concrete help when you need it," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociologist at Duke and an author of the study, which analyzed responses in interviews that mirrored a survey from 1985. "These are the tightest inner circle."

The study "should provide a wake-up call to our society," said Bill Maier, a vice president and psychologist in residence with Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian group. "We're missing out on deep, meaningful interpersonal relationships."

Yet within the analysis there was at least a suggestion of hope.

"The one type of relationship that actually went up was talking over personally important things with your spouse," Dr. Smith-Lovin said.

Like "Bowling Alone," the essay and, later, book by Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor a Harvard, the Duke study suggested that a weakening of community connections is in part responsible for increasing social isolation. More people are working and commuting longer hours and have little time for the kinds of external social activities that could lead to deeper relationships.

So the closest ties increasingly are limited to family members, in particular to spouses.

"That's probably a result of the fact that men's and women's lives are more structurally similar now than in 1985," Dr. Smith-Lovin said. It's more likely that both spouses are working at jobs that are important to them, and men are more involved around the house. "Spouses literally have more to talk about," she said.

Dr. Maier, for one, sees that as cause for at least some optimism in a society whose fast pace generally bodes badly for family life. "To hear that people are investing more in their nuclear family is a positive thing," he said.

The Internet is also cause for some optimism, because it has made it easier to maintain ties among family members who have become scattered. Those ties inevitably developed over long-term, face-to-face contact, but e-mail can help keep them strong.

"E-mail really does help maintain your social networks," said John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Recent Pew surveys, he said, found that "when you contact family by e-mail, you share important and serious things."

Still, Dr. Smith-Lovin said, any optimism must be tempered. For one thing, having only one confidant, even if that confidant is a spouse, leaves a person extremely vulnerable if the spouse dies or the marriage disintegrates.

And in the end, she and others pointed out, e-mail or instant messaging is no substitute for face-to-face contact. "E-mailing somebody far way is not the same as them going to pick up your child at daycare or bringing you chicken soup," she said.

Dr. Putnam said the new study reinforced much of what he had reported in "Bowling Alone," which had been criticized by some academics as a faulty analysis that ignored other social and economic trends. And even if the new study points to a rise in spouses as confidants, that is not especially cause to rejoice, he said. "It's like with global warming, if we learn that temperatures are going to rise slightly less than we thought," he said. "It's still a problem."

"Sure, you might say, we've still got our wives or husbands or mothers," he said. "That's true. But gosh, the number of friends you have is a strong predictor of how long you live."

The impact goes beyond the individual, as well. "There are effects on my neighbors of my not knowing them," he said. For one thing, "If I don't know them well and they don't know me, that has a demonstrable effect on the crime rate."

Dr. Horrigan said there was anecdotal evidence that some members of a community use e-mail and the Internet "to keep up with people very close by." The Internet can help expand social networks, although the ties it creates are not as strong as those the Duke researchers are concerned with. Yet they can be useful.

His group's research has shown that the Internet is increasingly being used during life's "major moments" — to gather information or advice when making a big financial investment, deciding where to live, or choosing a college for a child. The research has shown that "people were more likely to get help through their social network" for those kinds of decisions.

Still, Dr. Putnam said, "The real interesting future is how can we use the Net to strengthen and deepen relationships that we have offline."
Last edited by Winston on Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NY Times: The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier

Postby jamesbond » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:36 pm

Winston wrote:"The number of friends you have is a strong predictor of how long you live."

I guess some of us aren't going to be living very long. :lol:
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Postby Grunt » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:49 pm

Again, when the vast overwhelming majority of people around you are drooling submorons that will stab you in the back for a penny, what obligation do you have to force yourself to be along them?

There are great people out there in the world, but as time goes by, those people become exceedingly difficult to find. Personally, the only people I could stand to be around would be Libertarians or Ron Paul supporters, and maybe some old hippies.

Most other people will immediately begin spewing garbage about Jersey Shore or how drunk they got last weekend. Hey, if that is what you want, more people to you, but I am not interested.

In a normal society, there is an even mix of idiots and sane people, smart people and dumb people, Republicans and Democrats, etc etc. A nice blend for a diverse culture. Now it seems 60% of the people are simply too dumb to be tolerable.

Granted, I am older and jaded, but I do not think my perceptions are based on any lunatic fringe concepts (racism, Naziism, Communism, etc).

People are free to be morons, but I am equally free to walk away from t hem.
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Re: NY Times: The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier

Postby Winston » Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:45 pm

jamesbond wrote:
Winston wrote:"The number of friends you have is a strong predictor of how long you live."

I guess some of us aren't going to be living very long. :lol:

Well then go abroad and get new friends! You don't have to stay where you are. You can save up $800 for a plane ticket by working at McDonald's or Wendy's if you had to. There's no real excuse except fear, laziness and procrastination, or addiction to misery.
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Postby S_Parc » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:51 pm

Folks, in the USA, being a minimalist is the key to being "adjusted".

I'd gone from 100+ friends/acquaintances in college to ten percent of that, today.

In effect, I'd found my quality of life to improve. The old expression, keep your friends close but your enemies even closer, may have been fine for the ancient-to-medieval court systems where everyone's forced to be present at all times, however, in our society, it's best to keep your enemies or even potential enemies, as far away, as possible. Life is simply too short.

Just among my current dozen circle, I don't have slashers in the mist, waiting for me to make a mistake, to screw me over. When I was inundated with so-called friends, I was a bit young & naive and was fooled by the pretentiousness of would be backstabbers. Yes, that's when I'd discovered that 80% of AWs were wolves cloaked in Egyptian cotton. Do you guys remember WomansView on this forum? I'd known a few like her and they were pernicious individuals, who pretended to be friends with everyone but then, back stabbed at will, whenever it suited their purpose. Usually, they're jealous of other peoples' successes & spend time either cock-blocking (if it involves others' relationships) or career-bashing (if the area is related to work/finance). That's why I'd spent a lot of time ratting her out of this forum quickly. I knew she was a cancer from the get-go.

Well, those days are over and my life is a whole lot better.
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Adding to the conversation....

Postby djfourmoney » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:36 pm ... 1324586390

This part should be of interest to posters here -

The Position of Men

Lost and lonely men may work on transforming their lives through 12-step programs or therapies. However, needing and reaching out for help has traditionally been associated with femininity, not masculinity. There are four refuges left for men who cling to male hegemony and stereotyped masculinity. They are: the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun culture; the military; the Christian right; and pornography. Of these four misogynist refuges, pornography is the most prevalent, profitable and expanding. The heterosexual Internet pornography industry has exploited heterosexual men's loneliness and contributed to changing the face of the most intimate connections.

Possibilities for meaningful and egalitarian heterosexual personal relationships now seem bleak. Women's current disappointment with men and men's increasing withdrawal from authentic communication and relationships are now reflected in popular culture. Trendy films like "Knocked Up" have birthed a new genre. In "Knocked Up," the female lead has a good job. She is attractive and professional-looking, while the male lead lives with a handful of unemployed, slovenly, male roommates who spend the majority of their time playing video games, smoking pot and watching pornography in a filthy apartment covered in pizza boxes and overall inertia. Their biggest aspiration, which remains to be accomplished, is launching their own pornography site.

A New York Times article describing two state-of-the-art sitcoms is called "Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV."

Images of high-functioning women and slacker-style, adolescent men have also come up in a study conducted by one of this article's co-authors, Tess Fraad Wolff. Fraad-Wolff interviewed 48 heterosexual women of four different races and socioeconomic groups, ranging in age from 22-40 years old. She asked questions that concerned women's emotional and sexual experiences during the dating process. An overwhelming majority, 46 of the 48 women interviewed, responded with descriptions of the problems below.

Men often refuse to plan ahead and can only accept spur-of the-moment arrangements.
Men show fears of commitment after first dates by failing to make or attend second dates. They reschedule and cancel frequently.
Too many men fail to bring sufficient funds to even share the cost of possible activities on dates.
Men introduce sex and sexually related material into conversations instantly and inappropriately, yet many cannot perform.
The last complaints, about inserting sexual material into the most initial of conversations, may relate to an issue that powerfully impacts relationships and illustrates a profound connection between capitalism and loneliness. It is the mainstreaming of heterosexual pornography.

Here's a link to "Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV" - ... eview.html
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