Thursday, October 25, 2007

The ties that bind...

After a few of the posts I wrote last week, I decided to spend some time researching social isolation and how many people experience it.

I came across this article in the Washington Post that did a lot of the research for me. It all sounded reasonable and logical. It's interesting to know that so many do experience it and it has nothing to do with social suitability. (I had assumed it had a lot to do with it.)

In my case, I am socially lazy. I have house mates so I am never really alone (even when I want to be). I have on-line contacts and all of them are substantial. (My interest in ones that don't have substance is too low to sustain them.) We do discuss things that matter in our lives. Sometimes I miss the person-to-person contact, either in each other's presence or on the phone. That is probably a matter of preference though rather than a result of actual isolation.

I also have my surrogate family in Thailand. I know they are there and we're all just waiting for me to get home.

In that regard, for someone who doesn't exert much effort to make friends, I have quite a few.

There are times when it's easy to forget that. And, as always, I think about those who really don't have much choice and can't simply "choose" to "go out" and "make friends" like it was some goal-driven activity like finding a car or a house.

I'm curious to know how accurate the article might be. It seems so to me.

What do you think? How many trusted others do you actually have in your life? According to the article, most people in the US only have two ~ which is down from twenty years ago. Are you satisfied?


Anonymous said...

Everything in our society seems to be moving towards isolation. People would rather watch DVDs at home than see a movie in a theater, and would rather play games against a computer than play a game with a human. People are constantly on the move, changing jobs, moving to new neighborhoods. They'd rather ride alone in their car than (shudder!) take the bus.

I used to work in a high-rise in Dallas, and riding the elevator up nobody said "Good morning!" or asked how anyone was doing; we just stood there not looking at each other.

I think it all stems from fear. People are afraid of everything these days, most of all each other.

Rimarama said...

I would say I have more than two close confidantes, but definitely less than twenty. But the reasons the article stated for our increasing isolation make sense to me

Whenever I feel especially isolated as a stay-at-home-mother, I wonder whether I would be feeling this way had I lived some forty years ago outside of a bedroom community, with extended family close by and neighbors who popped in and out and could be depended upon for company and assistance. It does take a village, after all.

meno said...

Interesting article. I do see it around me, but when i start moaning about not having any friends, i think, but what about ____ and _____, and oh yeah, ____.

Not everyone is my "best" friend, but i enjoy their differences.

MsLittlePea said...

It's pretty accurate to me. Besides my husband, the only person I can really count on for support is my sister. It all comes down to trust for me. I have been stabbed in the back so many times by people who I thought were my friends so it's hard for me to let anyone in. Something happened this past July that pretty much re-enforced it. Thinking about it now makes me realize how little I should blame others and look to my own self for not choosing people with good qualities to associate with. It's something that used to bother me since I was such a social butterfly in my teens and early 20s but not so much anymore because I'd rather have a couple real connections than a 100 people I can't trust. I do think the internet can bring people together though.

Julie Pippert said...

Once upon a time I was young and not terribly wise. I had so many "friends" I couldn't count them on my hands. Time and again these people I called "friends" were all for the fun and sunny days only, and yet, I kept them about.

This illustrated three catastrophic mistakes I made wrt people:

1. You get back what you give. (Not an absolute at all.)

2. People I know are all my friends woot woot party hearty!

3. Quantity is important. The more friends you have the more popular you are and therefore you know you are a Good Person.

I kept being hurt, disappointed, betrayed and so forth.

Why oh why? Why would my "friends" do this to me?

Then I realized they weren't friends.

Then I wondered why I kept making bad friends.

Ultimately I realized what I already knew in kindergarten: a few good friends are worth a price above rubies; not everyone you know is a friend---that is a word of deep connotation and to use it frivolously cheapens its meaning; real friends give without expectation, take when they need and are there for you when you need.

Amazingly, I find I know a lot of people but only have a few good friends.

Oh but they are great---human, but great.

So, like you, when I reframed it, I found a richness.

Using My Words

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I can see me in that study. I am by nature what I would call a social loner - I like other people but am not a joiner of groups.

Since my husband developed Alzheimer's, I feel quite isolated, and sometimes frustrated. I don't want to burden my children, who are not his, with constant sad anecdotes so I try to pretend everything is fine, even when it isn't. I realize that I am selling them short, but they are busy and I don't want them to worry about us.

My brother and his family have minimal interest, and his own siblings have even less, from all appearances. Our few friends as a couple live far away, and we are not makng new ones these days.

So yeah, for me the study rings true. The internet has provided me with a few wonderful people with whom I communicate to some degree, but since we are not face-to-face friends, I try not to dwell on my problems with them.

The advent of the car probably initiated the isolation even before television as people began to move away from their home communities.

Julie Pippert said...

P.S. There is a lot of talk about Toxic People. I am troubled by this. Do you remember my post about being someone's bad day? At any point in time, I think I could be considered toxic, by the right person under the wrong set of conditions. I think we are all vulnerable to that.

I'm suppose there are really bad people. Just bad to the bone.

But, I find, when I get to know someone...there is usually a redeeming quality, and I find a sense of understanding (and often this entails forgiveness).

I'm told I'm stupid about this many times. Maybe.

Redeeming doesn't mean room in my life. But it does mean it's more the combination of us is toxic than that the other person is evil.


It's chemistry. Sometimes it's a bad mix, no good for anyone.

But it doesn't make the ingredients bad and horrible...just the mixture.


Using My Words

slouching mom said...

There are maybe four or five people whom I can totally trust.

I'm with Julie -- so much better to have a small number of true friends than all sorts of, well, false friends.

Anvilcloud said...

My true friends are pretty well limited to family.

Tabba said...

i've only had a "few" good friends.

that is still the case today.

i count a solid three.

not that i don't have other friends who i can rely upon. but i have a solid three that are my support system.

Aliki2006 said...

I wish I had more people to trust. My husband is definitely my #1 Trusted Other, and my sister, too. But I yearn for a close female friendship, and I have no real ones here. I have a couple Trusted Others I can unburden myself on, but they are too far away to really and truly be Trusted Others.

I need people. I miss this closeness I used to have.

crazymumma said...

I consider myself very lucky. I have a husband who I trust, as well as my children, a sister and brother in law who I would hand my children to if need be, and 10 or so friends I trust with my heart.

I am truly blessed.

flutter said...

quality not quantity

jen said...

i have a few. not too many. not what i envisioned, a sacred close community. i wish i did, but i've not found it. orchids in the desert. maybe one day.

Catherine said...

Such a good, good, question. I have also found that many people do not know HOW to have significant connection with others - have never seen it modeled, have no vision for it at all. Friendship so often seems to be the people you party with, complain with and about, etc.

I've just posted about this, sort of...


Christine said...

i have lots of friends, but only a few that i trust with a certainty that doesn't waiver. i guess i would say that i am a "friendly" person who has lots of acquaintances and people in my life. but i have learned the hard way to only trust a few with my heart.

Anonymous said...

I find the tv and computer a huge distraction to my social life. I can't say one way or another, but it seems both sides were argued well. That yes, we seem to be isolating ourselves more, yet we have more options for interaction should we choose to. If someone was isolated in the 1980's, imagine how isolate they truly were. I am also finding the older I get, the less I want social, face to face interaction. Especially in the cold dark winter months, i just want to hybernate.

Anonymous said...

i used to have friends but since i got sick nobody calls or comes around anymore. Truely pisses me off for i was a good friend to all. I was the caller, the arranger of get togethers, the designated driver, the gift giver, the babysitter, the one who picked up the tab....
i guess they wernt really my friends after all.

Liz said...

I always ask myself who I could call if I got into a car crash and got left standing on the side of the road. Who would really drop everything and come get me? I can see maybe three folks here in LA. I sometimes feel isolated but I know I also accept it as a natural part of life in the big city. I probably shouldn't do that.

Pam said...

I do believe that we are becoming a more isolated, less involved society. I live in small town America, separated, to some degree, from the masses, but I see changes here too. I am very lucky, however, because I am close to more than a handful of people and consider myself fortunate. Even though I am a loner by nature, I need, like most of us, the love and support of those closest to me.

niobe said...

I have a reasonably large number of friends.

How many of them do I really trust? Zero.

Emily said...

I have three people I would trust with my kids' lives. (Not counting relatives.) That's a lot.