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Friday, June 23, 2006

Trend: Social Isolation


We all seem more interconnected than ever with the advent of cellphones, blogging, and social networks like myspace. However, a major study from the American Sociological Review announced that Americans are having trouble finding true connections. (Further coverage from the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.)

Some interesting points:

  • The average number of people with whom Americans discuss important matters has dropped from three to two in just two decades.
  • One-quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom to discuss their most important personal business.
  • Four out of five people surveyed in 2004 said they only talk to family members about important personal matters, compared with 57 percent in 1985.
  • White people, young people, and people with more education tended to have larger social networks than non-whites, older Americans, and people with less education.

    Although many internet users state that technology has created more powerful social connections (see The Strength of Internet Ties), our immediate personal relationships have dwindled. Can virtual communities take the place of real communities that are becoming less relevant from suburban sprawl and the loss of true third places?

    These conclusions may seem a bit dire. After all, perhaps our method of interaction and socializing is simply changing from the "good old days" of decades past. It seems that we are deciding to do things on masse. Third places such as megachurches and malls have replaced small community networks. Upwards of six million people participate in World of Warcraft. We all know a lot more people. But how many of them really matter?

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