Saturday, July 15, 2006

Social Isolation Growing in U.S.

A much blogged social networking article: Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says. Putnam's famous Bowling Alone was on this topic, and things have only gotten worse, apparently.
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. 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. "That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."

Barry Wellman, known for his studies of internet community networks, suggests that people have more diverse network connections and spread out their needs among different links. Hmm. I'm reminded of Oldenburg's Great Good Place, about the increasing lack of "third" places like bars or community centers, not work or home sites, in which people hang out and have social lives. Suburbia is particularly prone to this problem (except in NJ, where all the kids hang out and smoke at the all-night diners).

Some of the concerns this raises are that isolated people are more depressed, more prone to illness, potentially to crime...

2 comments :

steve said...

Ann Hulbert offers comments in the NY Times magazine section today

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/16/magazine/16wwln_lede.html

I'm clearly not an expert here

Lynn said...

Thanks, I enjoyed that. Although I find it a little easy to say "we may have less, but they're better."