Nearly everyone has felt the pang of loneliness. For some Americans, loneliness comes but doesn’t go.
About one in four Americans have no “close friends,” according to a study by Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matthew E. Brashears. The data of the study came from the General Social Survey, which surveyed 1,467 people over the age of 18.
The last time the yearly survey included a question about having close friends was in 1985. Since then, researchers at Duke University and the University of Arizona found that the number of people who have no close friends has more than doubled.
“We were surprised to see such a large change,” said McPherson, a professor at both Duke and Arizona, in a press release. “We remain cautious, perhaps even skeptical, of its size. It’s unusual to see very large social changes like this that aren’t tied to some type of demographic shift in the population.”
In today’s age of technology how is it possible for people to be even more isolated than 20 years ago?
Perhaps technology is getting in the way of connection. When people want to “get away” but end up bringing cell phones or laptops, they’re too busy to enjoy the moment and connect with people.
Another part of the research concluded that Americans participate in a low percentage of group activities, such as church and clubs.
“Group membership is very important in creating ties to people outside the family,” said Smith-Lovin, a sociology professor at Duke, to Scripps Howard News Service in a press release. “But those ties may be more superficial now. If people spend less time in groups, they may talk to people, but just about matters that involve the club, and they may be less likely to share personal troubles or triumphs with them.”
Luckily for college students, there are many ways to defeat isolation right on campus. There are numerous clubs, ranging from the Pre-Dental Society to the table tennis club. And there is always the option of going Greek or volunteering in the community.
If that is too time consuming, the Bull Market and Movies on the Lawn always have a variety of people attending. Just attempting small talk can get people out of their loneliness buzz.
Asking a friend out to lunch rather than sending a text message couldn’t hurt, either.