One person or nobody

O' lonely bear“Social Isolation in America” [pdf]

We have fewer friends than two decades ago.

And loneliness affects our thinking and our health.

We are losing people that help and advise; losing our sounding board.

A quarter of us are just one person away from nobody.
And people who have no one has also reached about 25%.

The General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago looked at results from 1985 and 2004. The average number of people who are considered close confidants dropped by nearly one-third, from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. More than 50 percent named two or fewer confidants, most often immediate family members. The drop-off was greatest in the number of friends.

Lynn Smith-Lovin studies identity, action and emotional response — the basic question of how identities affect social interaction [].

She’s worried, “This change indicates something that’s not good for our society. Ties with a close network of people create a safety net. These ties also lead to civic engagement and local political action.” [npr podcast]

Similarity breeds connection. This principle—the homophily principle—structures network ties of every type, including marriage, friendship, work, advice, support, information transfer, exchange, comembership, and other types of relationship. The result is that people’s personal networks are homogeneous with regard to many sociodemographic, behavioral, and intrapersonal characteristics.

Homophily limits people’s social worlds in a way that has powerful implications for the information they receive, the attitudes they form, and the interactions they experience. [abstract]

Impact of social ties
The Boston Globe asks, “Imagine if some other piece of the social safety net had frayed that furiously. Imagine if income had gone down by a third, or divorce doubled, or the medical system halved. We would be setting up commissions and organizing rallies!

About the impact of cellphones and the internet? “It could be that we are both increasingly in touch and isolated.”

Additional search terms:

affect control theory
ecological theory of affiliation