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Internet to Blame for Lack of Close Friends 361

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lack-of-drinking-buddies dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "Duke and University of Arizona researchers are citing the Internet as one of the main contributing factors to a shrinking of social networks among Americans. People say they have fewer people they can talk to about important stuff, even if they are talking to lots more people from all over the place about unimportant stuff online."
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Internet to Blame for Lack of Close Friends

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  • Did they consider (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idonthack (883680) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:26PM (#15597307)
    That maybe people use the Internet because they don't have any friends?
    • Re:Did they consider (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bastian227 (107667) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:37PM (#15597352) Homepage
      Or is it the lack of close friends is to blame for the Internet?
    • by Anonymous Coward
    • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:29PM (#15597984) Homepage
      I have plenty of close friends. Trouble is they're scattered all over the planet.

      I could never relate to most locals, really. The best friends I have are those I've met online. A few have moved nearby since and I see them often in real-life.

      I don't think the Internet is responsible for a *lack* of close friends.. Just a larger pool of potential friends where you end up meeting much better matches, even if they are physically farther away.

      However, the folks I've met on the 'net aren't any less my friends than folks I've met in person.

      -Z
      • by hey! (33014) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:31PM (#15600892) Homepage Journal
        I could never relate to most locals, really. The best friends I have are those I've met online. A few have moved nearby since and I see them often in real-life.

        Therein lies the rub.

        Leaving aside all the things that friends do for you that require physical presence (e.g. visit you in the hospital after the car accident, feed your pet iguana while you're on vacation), it means that more than ever, birds of a feather flock together.

        Friendship used to be 50% affinity and 50% propinquity. People used to have some friends who were mostly affinity (my friends I see at the monthly meeting of the the local chapter of the Christian Republican Golfers )and some friends mostly by propinquity (my next door neighbor, who's a lesbian Democrat labor activist and used her trusty swiss army knife to get my broken down car started when I was running late for the big job interview).

        Being friends with people who you couldn't relate to beforehand broadens your mind in the way that mere access to the wealth of information the Internet provides can't. It's all too easy to be like a person in a exotic foreign bazaar who heads right to the McDonald's for a Big Mac. Pretty soon your circle of friends contracts until you and your asscoiates in the Virtual Jihadist club reinforce each other in a very peculiar and narrow minded world view. You no longer have people who have both conservative Christian Republicans for friends and liberal gay Democrats. We stick to our golf buddies or fellow lesbian separatists.

        • by Nutrimentia (467408) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @09:06PM (#15602858) Homepage
          Being friends with people who you couldn't relate to beforehand broadens your mind in the way that mere access to the wealth of information the Internet provides can't. It's all too easy to be like a person in a exotic foreign bazaar who heads right to the McDonald's for a Big Mac. Pretty soon your circle of friends contracts until you and your asscoiates in the Virtual Jihadist club reinforce each other in a very peculiar and narrow minded world view.

          This is an excellent point that continually is missed by most everyone. Not only has increased use of the internet for socializatoin lead to a decrease in the quality of friendships, it's made it more difficult to access to wider viewpoints. Most of the comments thus far on this story miss the point that it isn't contact with others that is under analysis, it's the quality of the relationship. For those of you shrugging off this news with the attitude that you've got more and better friends thanks to the internet, ask yourself how many of those friends you can talk about serious problems with. How many of them provide the emotional support that we depend on in extreme situations? I'm not at all surprised that the article reports that families are becoming the only contact of this caliber.

          But above and beyond that, the internet, in all of its glory, its very susceptible to becoming an unintentional and unrecognized echo chamber. It's all too easy to spend time on sites that have information that conforms and confirms our cherished beliefs and attitudes. People have to make an effort to read about a variety of viewpoints, but that doesn't happen as much as it ideally would. There are associated risks of these echoes building up and more and more issues become polarized as a result as well.

          I'm not saying that the internet is bad or that we need to find a way to "fix" this problem. But I do think that these trends are real and have real effects on the meatspace society we inhabit as well. For the most part, it is just going to result in a change, neither really better or worse, just different. But it may have a measurable, or at least significant, impact on people, either as communities or on an individual level, be it the fraying of civic ties or simply not having anyone to turn to in times of crisis and need.
          • This point is actually far from "missed by most everyone". The phenomenon is called exclusivism [wikipedia.org] and is often discussed in research dealing with virtual communities.
          • But above and beyond that, the internet, in all of its glory, its very susceptible to becoming an unintentional and unrecognized echo chamber.

            I agree perfectly. Also, Microsoft has never released a product worth using, Linux is the best thing slnce sliced bread, and SCO, RIAA and Sony are worse than raping puppies and drowning children - or was that the other way around?
    • it's just laziness (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuzieQueue123 (984811) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:19PM (#15598149)
      Think back to a time before Google. When you watched a movie and thought the actor looked familiar, but didn't know who it was. You called a friend, told them to tune in, and they told you who it was. Usually this would prompt a conversation and maybe some plans to hang out. Now, the instinct is to look it up online. No social interaction necessary. Instant gratification.

      Enter MySpace. Now if you want to know what your friends are doing, you just look at your event invites. If you don't want to go, there's no need to make excuses over the phone. Just say you forgot to look. You don't have the benefit of that friend pulling your leg telling you it just might be fun. It's easy to miss out on things this way. But it's SO much less of a hassle, right?

      The flow of information has gone from push to pull. You can now look up only what you want to see and ignore everything else. Even searches about heated topics like war, religion, etc - the result of your search depends on how you perform it. People aren't often challenged by new and opposing information. They have enough online friends that share their opinions. When you talk to people in the real world about the same subjects, you are getting a somewhat random mix of opinions. You risk having to defend your view and even having to change it. Online friends are easier to deal with because you've pre-screened them based on their interests.

      Look at radio. It used to be that we were given a set of songs that were repeated over and over until we liked them or tuned out. The only way to hear new music was to go - gasp - OUT to a bar or club. Now we can download just the songs we want, or check Pandora for recommendations.

      My point is that people are lazy. It's natural to look for the path of least resistance. Often times, the internet is that path. The internet only got as popular as it did because of this. It's not a chicken-egg thing. People created the internet. We only have ourselves to blame for the isolation. We asked for it.

      Is it really such a bad thing? We look back fondly on a time before the internet. We think that time was wonderful because it no longer exists. We remember study groups at the library and honestly think they are better than independent research online. But we forget how interaction with others often slows down our individual progress. You're only as strong as the weakest link. If the collective knowledge of your own pool of friends is all you had, would you know as much as you know now? Or is it that we are starting to believe that knowledge isn't all it's cracked up to be? What can you do with it when you are all alone?

      Maybe it is better for people to help each other, to strengthen the weakest link instead of tossing him overboard as dead weight. Sure, that's better for society. But not for the individual. What we are seeing now is the struggle between the two. At the moment the individual is the one who is winning out, and that is why Americans are perceived as shallow and selfish.
      • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @09:47PM (#15598667)
        Shrinking social networks? Not for me! I'm 47 and feel zero nostalgia for pre-internet days. I found them suffocating. Thanks to computers, I keep in touch with my friends worldwide that I would otherwise forget to write to. I can meet someone when I travel or deploy, then keep in touch for many years.
      • Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

        by umbrellasd (876984)
        On Mars we absolutely hate this kind of thinking. We like pull technology. We like the ability to choose what we listen to, and we prefer that people not push their idea of reality on us "for our own good", but if they try to that is OK because we will just walk away. The pushers will mistakenly identify that as isolationism, but this is a mistake: such people are not lazy and they are not isolated.

        On Mars, people seek what is new and different. Martians enjoy exploring both sides of an argument, and

      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:54AM (#15599458)
        While I'm not sure about the merits of being peer-pressured into doing something you don't want to do, I think you're definitely off the mark on the push/pull dilemma. If anything we are more constantly bombarded with data we either don't agree with or find outright offensive to our values, a good amount of it is such utter bullshit that I would argue no one would even sat it in a face to face environment. With close friends you have a sort of pre-selected group of people who think alike, they may disagree, but never about anything 'important'. With any given search of something on the internet you're going to get every random opinion that may exist (along with 10% obligatory porn). Gradually, as with anything else, you learn to filter out sources of opinions that bother you, in the end I think it's a wash.

        I'm not sure why Americans in particular are shallow and selfish as the internet is catching on comparatively slow here. If the article premise is true, and the internet is tearing apart human social fabrics, then you'd think Koreans or Chinese would be the most shallow and selfish. Not something I've personally experienced

        To be slightly polemic (and borrowed slightly from Asimov), if you extropolate technological advancement to the end state, where anything can be had, what would you consider to be utopia? Some people envision the perpetual party state, having fun with friends and living closely with their peers, bound together by social laws and manners. Others might envision complete self-sufficiency, the anti-society, with no undesired external contacts and absolute freedom. I'm not sure that anything is wrong with either end state, we could site pro's and con's to either one, I personally favor the latter.
    • No, this article is not polling online to find out that people who surf the web has no close friends. The fact is that everyone has less number of close friends, whether you use the Internet or not.

      This is actually a consequence of a myriad of reasons, one of which is closely related to the Internet: complete partial attention. We're constantly interrupted---by e-mail, IM, cellphones, blueberries, all those distractions---that we don't pay any attention to anyone at all. Because of this, people in general a
  • by FSWKU (551325) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:27PM (#15597309)
    ... and I'll say it again. Where can I get giant bags of cash to study the blindingly obvious?
  • by ABeowulfCluster (854634) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:27PM (#15597310)
    That would be cool. I'd settle for one or two friends though.
  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:29PM (#15597317)
    I would think that most people that "rely" on the internets to make friends typically are the outcasts that don't have loads of friends. I hang out with a lot of people, but still know plenty from the internet alone.

    I don't think just knowing people by the net and never meeting them is healthy. You need human to human interaction.
  • by slushdork (566514) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:31PM (#15597327)
    <H0ley> Its like if you want to get a mate now a days, one has to get a myspace.
    <H0ley> What ever happened to getting to know people and dates and crap.
    <H0ley> Screw this profile crap.
    <H0ley> Everyone is trying to profile each other.
    <H0ley> Freaking meat-markets.
    <L4m3r> Dogs leave piles of crap for each other. We have Myspace.
  • stuff that matters? (Score:3, Informative)

    by russellh (547685) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:33PM (#15597334) Homepage
    I talk about that on the internet all the time.
  • Flipside (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chysn (898420)
    As unfortunate as that trend is, it seems to go along with another possibly related thing: folks are putting more and more personal information on their networking sites and blogs, things that they'd be embarassed to tell a "real" friend and downright insane to tell an employer. Off the internet you might not have many CLOSE friends, but on the internet everyone is your BEST friend.
  • Alienation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El_Isma (979791) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:37PM (#15597357) Homepage
    I believe that the problem is not Internet, but the increase in population. I have lived in small cities and big ones, and seen other even bigger cities, and you can really feel the difference. In small towns people are friendlier, more relaxed. For instance, you may say 'hi' to anyone you cross in the street and it won't be seen as something strange (in even smaller towns -rural areas- it's more like you must say hi, even if you don't know the other person). In bigger cities, on the other hand, you can feel the distance from other people. It's much more colder. Think Japan, loads of people all together but they try to avoid contact with each other. The "personal space" is a few centimetres around you... The bigger the city, the worse the problem is. Another thing I have seen is that people in bigger cities ignore unknown people more easly. In those cities I've heard other people talk about personal matters without minding who might hear them. In my home town that would be quite undiscrete and considered bad manners. That's my opinion, anyway :)
    • Re:Alienation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by radicalsubversiv (558571) <michael@she[ ]rds.org ['rra' in gap]> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:10PM (#15597488) Homepage Journal
      I have a hard time buying this. A quick glance at population growth in the U.S. over the last hundred years [census.gov] reveals that we're really not growing all that fast at the moment -- in the 1950s -- which social scientists note for a very high degree of civic engagement -- population was routinely growing at almost 2% a year. But for the past ten years, it's been less than 1%. Moreover, with birth rates at historic lows, much of the population increase we're seeing is coming from immigration -- communities which by necessity are characterized by dense social networks.

      If there's a culprit to be found in population patterns and geographic movements, it's not so much in urbanization (most cities have been losing people over the last few decades) -- as in suburbanization -- a pattern of life which is characterized by atomization and long commute times, leading Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone) speaks of a "sprawl civic penalty".
      • Re:Alienation (Score:4, Insightful)

        by beadfulthings (975812) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:17PM (#15598348) Journal
        While I can agree with your points about population increases, I believe that many cities are becoming re-urbanized. Formerly working-class or poor neighborhoods are undergoing rapid gentrification. There are many reasons for this--houses can be bought cheaply, updated, and resold for a profit. People are beginning to find it's convenient to live near where they work. If your neighborhood has been re-gentrified, the crime may be all around you, but chances are it won't be on your block.

        My own city of Baltimore is a real case in point. Our neighborhood was historically made up of blue-collar workers who worked on the nearby waterfront in assorted canneries and maritime occupations. It's situated between the well-known neighborhood of Fells Point to the west, and a solidly ethnic Greek neighborhood to its east. Housing prices have skyrocketed here. Old, small rowhouses are purchased and promptly demolished in order to build the urban version of the McMansion--a house that sits on a rowhouse footprint and goes straight up, sometimes for four or five stories. (Some new homes have elevators.)

        The result is a sort of urban bedroom community. The streets, shops, corner stores, bars, and restaurants are deserted during working hours. No one is out. There are no children to speak of. It doesn't foster social networking. I don't know either of my next-door neighbors, nor do I know the people in back (whose McMansions tower over and dwarf my traditional rowhouse back garden). The best way to get to know people here is to own a dog. You walk to the dog park and can become acquainted with your fellow home-office workers and the few young mothers and retirees still left here.

        This is happening in neighborhoods all over town, including the "artists' colony" area where loft space used to be cheap but is now beyond the reach of the young artists. Re-gentrified urban neighborhoods are ghost towns by day and automobile-congested rolling parking lots by night. All the ills and isolation of the suburbs have followed the middle class folk who are moving back into town.

    • Population increase doesn't apply much to the US over the last 25 years. Our population has been rather stable. You might want to argue that there has been an increase in urbanization. That has certainly been the case in Iowa, which is my home state. Rural communities have been shrinking and the suburbs have been growing. Personally, I think this is closer to the truth. In the burbs, you cannot walk or bicycle like I did as a child in a town of 10,000. The population density in the burbs means that s
    • Re:Alienation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:30PM (#15598178)
      Another factor to consider in this is fear. The news on TV is quite skilled at engendering a free-floating dread in the populace. Look at how kids get raised these days: kept indoors all the time, watched over like hawks, and any neighbor that so much as says hi to the kid is immediately suspected of wanting to kidnap, rape, and murder the kid. All because the TV news implies every night that it's happening everywhere!

        It used to be that parents let their kids go out and actually ROAM the neighborhood. I remember twenty-plus years ago, I'd come in for lunch, then go back outside and run around with my friends and sometimes my parents wouldn't see me until dinnertime, or even later. I look around the neighborhood where I live today, and only the latino kids get that sort of free rein anymore. I guess the Spanish channel's news is less horrifying. I know it all seems to have started about the early-to-mid 80's, with the fake scares about razors in apples on Halloween (a story pushed by crazy anti-halloween loons, who were afraid that Satan was coming for their children; a story they pushed right onto the front pages) and the rise of the aforementioned hysteria about the pedophiles in the woodwork.

        As the kids of that age have grown up, it's not surprising they've got a smaller circle of friends, and hey, that all started about the time the internet did!

        I firmly believe that the greatest problem in the world today (and in the United States most of all) is fear. It's the stark terror, deep inside, that causes people to argue that placing sensible restrictions on possible abuse of government power is going to cause crazed muslamoid islamobogeymen to kill people by the millions; it's what lies behind both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict; it's what fuels the repressive governments in North Korea and Iran; in a thousand ways, in a thousand parts of the world, it's fear that destroys us.
        - mantar
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:37PM (#15597358) Homepage Journal
    Let's put the blame where it belongs: I have less close friends because I spend too much time on the internet. It's not like the internet's fault, it's mine for taking the easy option.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • by nahdude812 (88157) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:39PM (#15597364) Homepage
    Maybe I'm not the demographic being described by the article, but I believe I have more close friends than I would w/o the Internet. I have my real life friends, some of whom have been my friends for more than half my life, and I have close friends I met online, and only know from online. Some of these people I've never met in real life, yet I'm comfortable enough to confide in them and look to them for advice.

    I don't use MySpace, I don't participate in social networking sites, yet I've still managed to encounter other minds like mine; minds I can learn from, and minds I can teach. Having an online life doesn't preclude me from having an offline life, and indeed they supplement each other.

    Finally, the Internet has greatly facilitated maintaining offline friendships that would have dissolved for geographic reasons. These friendships have moved online, and if not for the Internet, we might write a letter once a month or so. Instead I talk to these people daily. We also game together, so on a typical Friday night, a half dozen of my real life (offline) friends and I meet up and slay Onyxia or run Molten Core together when it would be logistically infeasible for us to meet in person.
  • I live in Norway, and the vast majority of my really close friends, are people I first met on various internet communities. Since Norway is a small country, where many live within range of each other, social gatherings are common among us, in addition to the lan partys that are arranged every year where I meet even more people that I have talked online with. After a few meetings with pot and alchohol, you start meeting the same people one-to-one or in smaller and smaller groups, just to hang out, talk or do
    • After a few meetings with pot and alchohol, you start meeting the same people one-to-one or in smaller and smaller groups...

      Yeah, in the US we call that "jail".

      Actually I'm just envious because most of the people I've met on the Internet are either looking for help with debugging some piece of code I touched ten years ago, or Brazillians looking for Orkut hookups, or both. I've never met any of these people face to face. That would be a nice change. As long as beer and pot weren't required.

      • I was just trying to illustrate that I do the same things on the social gatherings with online friends, as with my offline-only friends. Hence the pot and alcohol bit. To be honest, we do a lot of other stuff too, like going bowling, seeing a good movie, etc.
  • (besides "profit", of course...)

    What else would you expect, given that most people access reality through a computer or TV screen? Why ask a person when you can ask [ask.com] a computer? Why deal with ordinary people in your neighborhood when you can risklessly gape at people who are much more beautiful [cnn.com] or who lead more exciting [theocshow.com] or important [nbc.com] lives, or perhaps take comfort in the fact that you can always find abundant reinforcement [slashdot.org] for your choices online?

    And here I am, typing this, while my kids are playing

  • ...sit in from of the computer a lot (right now for example) ...
    No bath necessary.
    Ex-friends say it's because of how bad I smell you insensitive clod!
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:44PM (#15597387) Homepage
    I find that the hollowness of American social life is not only due to the Internet, but to a growing American utilitarianism and sense of entitlement that stretches into personal relationships.

    Friends and would-be lovers alike are more and more forming and maintaining friendships on the basis of "What is this person doing for me right now?"

    If someone isn't making them a profit, or is (gasp) taking their time or effort without a mechanically measurable payoff of some kind, people are only too ready these days to "kick them to the curb" and look for friends who are profitable or represent a measurable gain of some kind, whether in prestige or job prospects or exclusive memberships or exploitable expertise/skills.

    This mentality of "everything has a price and can be calculated as a cost-benefit" has already ruled American material life for years and led to a kind of spiritual bankruptcy that leads to cults, sappy new-ageism, under/overeducation, and other strange social pathologies and now it is polluting our social lives as well.

    When everyone is busy being a self-interested climber in their relationships, is is any wonder that nobody seems to be able to find non-selfish-climber friends? When everyone is busy sensing that they are entitled to their opinion, their time, their wishes, their preferences without the need for discussion or compromise, is it any wonder that people suddenly find that no-one is willing to compromise or have patience with them?

    It gets to the point that you socialize on the Internet merely because the stakes are lower. You're less likely to get screwed or hurt or exploited and at the same time you can justify the time expenditure to others because "spending time online" appeals more to the protestant ethic of endless "useful" labor than does a phrase like "hanging out with some friends at the bar."

    People are working all the time, their social relations have now become part of work too, calculated like work, and so they are finding that relationships feel like work and are subject to all of the risks and pitfalls that occur in the workplace.

    The solutions? Stop bringing work home, set aside time to be "home," don't try to measure what other people are doing for you, only what you are doing for other people, and try not to take it personally when people "kick you to the curb" for not being productive enough or razz you for being a "slacker" and not leaving work at 8:30 PM to bring it home and pound on it with some climber friends from the office until 1:30 AM while calling it a "social life."
    • Fluffy commentary my good man; and worthy of a column in a local newspaper. However like said columns it is more a sophisticated whine - with petty vague solutions stretched in meticulous fashion to fit everybody.

      Well here's the news: "Everybody" cannot be cohengently administered or instructed to change their lives; not "everybody" can swallow their pride and simply attempt to negate this implied "greed" culture of which you speak; some people are naturally ostentatious and extroverted - others, not so muc
      • by aussersterne (212916) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:45PM (#15597615) Homepage
        Really? What is your philosophical alternative then


        After you descend into ad hominem, you make my point for me. You appeal to systematization by way of criticism against a post whose premise is that systematization is not always in order!

        The absolute need to elucidate a philosophical alternative to a polemic against elucidatable orders speaks to the enlightenment-centric mentality that all that is must be measurable or it simply isn't, which is precisely the state of affairs I was bemoaning in my post.

        My alternative is not philosophical, it is material, and it is not argument but rather deed: self-sacrifice in the interest of making others happier. That is my solution, and I don't appeal to logic to justify it because my polemic is precisely that logic is an inappropriate metric for feeling. I freely admit that I have no measurable justification. I make no incremental, falsifiable argument to buttress the point, because to do so is to concede from the start precisely what I seek to contradict: that all virtues or all things of merit must first be elucidated and second measured, whether measured in isolation or measured against.

        Measurement is the problem here. Yes, the enlightenment brought us from the middle ages to the era of laser eye surgery, but its methods have limits and those limits are reached at the boundary of meaning, because meaning is an undefinable abstraction that has thus far only ever been expressed and sought, but as of yet never actually defined for all our work on the subject across disciplines from the behavioral sciences through the hard sciences. There is ample empirical evidence everywhere you look for the inability of modernism and enlightenment thinking to come to terms with meaning: Al Qaeda, Columbine, Heaven's Gate, Obesity, American Idol, plastic surgery, Internet friendships, and on and on. I do not propose to attempt a measurable linkage between these and lack of meaning, either. You'll just have to deal with that, as will readers.

        To seek to apply rigor to the notion of life's "meaning" (which is, after all, fundamentally related to friendship and to work and to mortality) is to fail. Or at least, no-one has thus far succeeded in any commonly accepted way.

        So in short, I refuse to make a logical argument to support my point that logical arguments are the wrong metric to use when discussion relationships because to do so is to subvert the point to begin with. Indeed, the need to move beyond logic in relationships is the point, and I happily concede that without logic there is not currently a commonly accepted means by which to make any appeal at all, regarding feelings and friendships or anything else. But that is the nature of things: when you dismiss all that is, you must face all that as of yet isn't.

        But I reiterate my claim: cost-benefit analyses and cogent arguments are by definition constrained and framed by that selfsame worldview that I made my post in order to accuse, and beyond this, I suspect that many here would agree with me: that to apply logic and method to your relationships is to get only logic and method back from them. And that is the problem. I and many others want irrational things from friendship: people who are there for me even when I don't deserve it, people that I enjoy even though they don't add to my wealth or prestige, company that I want to keep even though it will all be meaningless when I am dead.

        I can not make arguments for any of these needs, under any system of thought or belief, or by any standard or method of measurement. But that does not by any means make them weaker. I need them, and so do others. And increasingly, we don't have them.
    • You're right about one thing, the Internet isn't the problem.

      Work isn't the problem either though, you're wrong about that.

      American culture is shallow:

      - Widespread prosperity shields people from the ordinary trials of life that build character and bring people together.
      - Peace deprives people of the bond of a common cause
      - Feminization weakens us by favoring consiliation and non-confrontationalism over resolve and steadfastness
      - Mass marketing eggagerates the importance of the trivial
      - Government policies h
      • American culture is shallow:

        - Widespread prosperity shields people from the ordinary trials of life that build character and bring people together
        - Peace deprives people of the bond of a common cause
        - Feminization weakens us by favoring consiliation and non-confrontationalism over resolve and steadfastness
        - Mass marketing eggagerates the importance of the trivial
        - Government policies have undermined the importance of families on dozens of fronts
        - Television entertainment is created by that vastly deep and m

        • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:44PM (#15597826)
          Just ask yourself: how many of these are tied to industry/capital? Constructions of women and the culturally feminine are the primary engines of immaterial consumption; mass-marketing supports consumption and rationalized labor; families dilute the body of individual consumption units by tying multiple units into a single one; television provides an avenue for market-making; "fair and balanced" news reporting reinforces a consumptive status quo; sex sells more than all else...

          Yeah, that's a lot of free-form brainstorming you have there. Some quick counterpoints:

          - Commerce didn't cause feminization
          - Commerce didn't cause people in government to favor handouts in place of families
          - Commerce didn't cause people to forget the difference between right and wrong
          - Commerce didn't cause peace (though it does support peace once you have it)

          Only to attack the problem from your direction is to need a dozen monographs to explain it, and even then to be attacked from all sides, whereas to follow the Frankfurt school methodology and simply tie it all to measure and increase is to attack a single problem: rationalization/rationality/instrumentality.

          So assume the conclusion "commerce is bad" and try to make vague connections to commerce from every other symptom of every other problem anyone can think of? No sale.

          Commerce is part of the problem because commerce is part of life. I even connected it a few times (prosperity, marketing, TV, etc). But commerce isn't the problem.
      • "- Sex has invaded every part of life. (i.e. "Those two guys sure are good friends, I wonder if they're gay? That old guy is being nice to those kids, I wonder if he's a child molester?") The only protection is to never be close to anyone." This is partially, I think, a reaction to close-mindedness in terms of sex. Our government has attempted at every turn to shield us from sex, while extreme violence is blatant in mass media. This creates a culture of fear around sex, when it's not something to be afraid
      • by vga_init (589198) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:25PM (#15598165) Journal

        - Widespread prosperity shields people from the ordinary trials of life that build character and bring people together.

        I've met a lot of people, including people who live or have grown up outside of the United States. Enduring adversity does not appear to have any appreciable impact on their character. On the other hand, it has more to do with personal values and the way they were raised. I've noticed that in general people who have suffered more "trials of life" actually are more poorly adjusted and have more personal problems and flaws in their character.

        - Peace deprives people of the bond of a common cause

        Why don't you just wear a sign on your forehead that says "Bush 4 Life"? Peace deprives people of having to die, maybe, but it never hurt anyone's ability to bond socially.

        - Feminization weakens us by favoring consiliation and non-confrontationalism over resolve and steadfastness

        Looking back at the very recent cold war, I'd say these "weak" values managed to save us from destroying civilization. Favoring consiliation and non-confrontationalism has nothing to do with feminizim or the female sex; you're assigning your own conservative cultural values to other people. Maybe you are taking this for granted, but it's a gross error. That aside, the worst people I have ever known were those with "resolve" and "steadfastness." Intelligent people naturally favor more clever solutions than simply using power to force their own "rightness."

        Open up a dictionary right now and look up the word "conciliation." You spew all this crap about creating bonds and bringing people together, and then you outright denounce conciliation as a weak feminine value? Go figure.

        - Government policies have undermined the importance of families on dozens of fronts

        You're not specific enough--examples please.

        - Right and wrong have given way to "political awareness" tests. Say the right things and you're golden.

        You always have to please authority--that's life. Of course, you loath having to pay lip service to a culture that is not your own, and you have a strong urge to devalue you it and attack it, citing "political correctness" as some sort of liberal conspiracy, making yourself look like the brave little guy sticking it to the man. Spare me.

        • by Kohath (38547)
          Lots of non sequiturs here. I'll ignore them.

          Enduring adversity does not appear to have any appreciable impact on their character.

          You probably have a different definition of character that I do. I'm not taliking about political beliefs. I don't confuse the two.

          Ordinary trials of life, like temporary difficulty paying for necessities, lead to people learning how to take care of themselves in tough situations. It leads to an understanding of the value of help from family and friends. And it leads people
  • I 100% Agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psx29 (538840) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:46PM (#15597398)
    I use the internet as a crutch for my non-existant social life. And after all these years it's finally wearing me down.
    • Re:I 100% Agree (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think it is more that the internet removes barriers and allows you to be more who you really are. E.G: if you are naturally really social, then the internet allows you to really be more social by allowing you interact with lots of people; whereas, if you are really anti-social, it also allows you to interact with really few quantities of people, and thus allows you to be more anti-social.

      That being said, I still think there is an inverse relationship between the quantity of conversation and the qualit
  • Technology..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZoneGray (168419) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:48PM (#15597408) Homepage
    Technoligy in general seems to contrubute to the breakup of traditional social structures. Air travel changed a lot of things in the 50's & 60's, allowing people to relocate about the country.... before then, most people just lived in the city where they were born, and relationships ran long and deep.

    Now, phones, TV, the Internet... they all direct our communication and our association away from older models. Musicians who used to hang out at the same nightclub now link to each other on MySpace. It's great that they can do it, but there was something better about the old way.

    The one redeeming quality of socialism (if socialists would recognize it), is that it promotes a notion of community as opposed to the depersonalization and fragmentation of our relationships that advancing technology (fueled by capitalism and freedom) promotes. As old concepts like neighborhoods, towns, churches decline in influence, people feel the need for stronger communal associations. Government at various levels can fulfil some of that need, however poorly.

    I believe the increasing size of the US gov't (as a percentage of GDP) over time is a reflection of the very same needs. The blessing of the US is that this is happening at a relatively slow and controlled pace over a period of decades. I love freedom and technology, but... well, here I am on the Internet instead of arguing with some friends at a lunch counter.
    • The one redeeming quality of socialism (if socialists would recognize it), is that it promotes a notion of community as opposed to the depersonalization and fragmentation of our relationships

      If you consult The German Ideology and other non-Das-Kapital works by Marx, you'll find that this is the philosophical underpinning of fundamental socialism and communism--the belief that no matter what other consequences socialism/communism do or don't bring, they're more likely to lead to meaningful relationships, mea

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @03:51PM (#15597421)
    I think it has more to do with the mobility of the population than the internet. How many more people these days are moving multiple times in their career, away from friends and family? I know I have twice in the past decade. Distance breaks up friendships, even in these days of the internet.
    • I hate to continue being the naysayer on this thread, but this almost certainly isn't true, because -- contrary to popular belief -- Americans today aren't any more mobile than they used to be.

      From Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's well-researched work on the "collapse of American community:

      ... for people as for plants, frequent repotting disrupts root systems. It takes time for a mobile individual to put down new roots. As a result, residential stability is strongly associated with civic engagement. Recent a

  • It makes sense I think. For many people the internet & it's social communities offer a release. There's just so many more people you can meet online and communicate with. Freindships are formed quickly as it's easy, through various online social groups, to find others with very similar interests to yourself ... which may not always be possible depending on where you live. I think this is the key, personally. On the other hand, it's not a black and white thing and it really depends on the type of perso
  • Yo
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  • I increased the number of people I call friends immeasurably because of the Internet. I may never meet them face to face, but we communicate directly and via forums almost on a daily basis.

    And, thanks to the Internet, I keep closer contact with family members living else where. Also, thanks to the Internet, I have reestablished connnections with folks whom I haven't heard from in more than 30 years,or longer.

    If anything, the Internet has brought the world closer together and we are all finding out that t
  • I've been a regular internet user since... oh, probably 1998 or so. Back then it was just using chat rooms at Yahoo! and working on a website on Fortunecity. Now-a-days I'm more heavily into it, participating on multiple forums covering a range of issues as well as working on my own websites (as well as others.)

    However, I believe I have a rather large social network. The only thing is that it's all online. I am a rather shy person in real life, and somewhat afraid of meeting new people, so I only have two o
  • with all its 'career' concerns, and in addition, the general 'do-well materially' understanding of times are to blame.

    My closest friend, for over 16+ years now, lives a 15 minutes walk to me. Yet, we do not see each other.

    He goes to work, goes back home. Goes to work, goes back home. This is the way with most friends nowadays.

    The internet, on the contrary, have awarded me many close friends that i could not hope to find via normal means - intellectuality, humor, manners, philosopy merged in one pot
  • I have close friends on every continent except Antarctica, and their long-distance friendship persists only because we can communicate over the internet.

    I believe that the lack of close friendships in Western societies could be related to the internet, that the internet permits us to meet our most basic and fundamental psychological needs online. Once these basic needs are met, we lose our incentive to overcome the challenges to find and foster more rich and fruitful personal relationships. Why go out, when
  • What was the name of that book? Bowling Alone [bowlingalone.com]?
  • I heard about the study earlier in the week, and I realized a) I don't need close friends (as they define it) and b) I do have "meaningful" discussions online about "important" matters.

    On point A, I know there are others (my wife being one of them) who crave human interaction with like-minded people, and require vicinity as part of their definition. For those people, I hope this study opens avenues to help them compensate for this need in our ever-closing world.

    On point B, I think those who will suffer the
  • by Spazmania (174582) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:14PM (#15597503) Homepage
    one reason that the survey might have turned up such a shift in social networks is that many respondents might have interpreted the questions differently in 2004 than they did in 1985.

    Sure. In 1985, a close friend was anyone who shared my hobbies and was on a first-name basis with me. There weren't many to pick from so I had to work at maintaining a friendship with all of them.

    Thanks to cheap telepresence I'm now in touch with plenty of people who share my interests. I can reserve close friend status for the very few people I'd trust with my life.

  • Fun fact: it's possible to have close friends on the internet. Better, it's possible to talk about important things to people on the internet. In fact, it's often easier. Anonymity can help you to open up. Finding a crowd of people with similar interests/issues can help too, and that's more likely to happen online.
  • By that token, I could blame people getting married for causing friendships to decline.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:31PM (#15597561) Homepage Journal

    Some people use the Internet to find new acquaintances or make new friends. Some people use the Internet to maintain relationships with existing friends. Doubtless many people do both.

    I find myself in the second category. While I occasionally make acquaintances via the Internet, my primary mechanism for forming friendships is still meatspace. The Internet is tremendously helpful to me in maintaining relationships with friends who no longer live where I live. I can communicate with friends from my years on the East Coast, friends from my time in the military, college, and even back to high school.

    The quality of that communication is up to the parties involved, but the mechanism is there. It is simply easier for me to send an email than it ever was to write a letter. A group of about eight or ten friends, spread all over the country, communicate via a small discussion group.

    I think back to the early 1990s. I was geographically isolated for three years, far from anything or anyone familiar. The friends with whom I communicated most often were those who had email addresses, and there were many times when those email conversations boosted my spirits and helped me feel connected.

    My feeling is that the Internet makes a wide array of communication possible - everything from the shallow smack-talking of game boards and in-game messaging to deep philosophical conversation and truly meaningful sharing of thoughts and feelings. As others in this discussion have suggested, how you use that technology is your own choice.

  • The reason people have fewer close friends is because we have become much more mobile. People use to live in one town, at the same house and work at the same job most of their lives. Now people move to places where they know no one, change jobs before they make close friends, etc. So much movement and change in the people you encounter in day to day life makes it harder to make close friends.
  • So there are two observations: people have an increasing number of on-line buddies and a decreasing number of off-line real friends. But who can be sure that the former is causing the latter? Statistics is full of this mistake.

    OK, lets throw in a third phenomenon, people are more mobile over larger distances. Who is still living in the same city, country or even continent he grew up? Living far away from your old friends and relatives definitely stimulates the use of on-line communication. And each time bui

  • 2 important points to note:

    1) Internet tech doesn't necessarily discourage local, face-to-face friendships. Right -now- the Web isn't used for local connection but I think that's just because of the way it's -framed-, just a momentary lack of vision by the people/firms building it. And I think that's a temporary anomaly that's disappearing as wi-fi and locative tech takes hold.

    Remember the net evolved from a set of LANs, and even as recently as the 80s, the folks who inhabited the dial-up BBS world were ve
  • by Magnifico (30966) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:41PM (#15597600) Homepage

    Add to the Internet:

    1. Your car
    2. Your cell phone
    3. Your cable television
    4. Your DVDs and home theater
    5. Your iPod and headphones

    These all contribute to not talking to people, not mingling, and not making new friends. Why make a new friend on the streetcar when you're yapping to a friend on your Bluetooth cell phone in your car? Why go out to a theatre when you can see it in private on DVD or cable? Why make listen to that attractive woman trying to hit on you when you're rocking out with your iPod?

    The more private, the more personal devices and tools we have, the more solitary our lives are becoming We don't want to share an experience anymore. We don't want to do things for the common good or the benefit of society at large. The Internet is just one facet of an overall trend. Our lifestyle in the early 21st century promotes this focus inwards and our selfishness.

  • by Bombula (670389) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:49PM (#15597634)
    I don't think it's fair to blame just the internet. There are a lot of forces in modern society that are disolving traditional social networks. I'd say most of them have their basis in technology though. I'm an anthropologist, and while it isn't my area of expertise my (somewhat informed) intuition is that the explanation here is that technology along with infrastructure and support systems have reduced the dependency that individuals used to have on one another for survival.

    Taking an extreme example, it is now quite possible to live in a room by yourself and never really talk to anyone, never go anywhere, never really interact with people at all - assuming you order your food in. But even to a lesser extreme things like Wal Mart and supermarkets provide the means for people to survive without being dependent on any other individual person. Whether you're buying dinner or a new car, you're interaction is going to be with someone whom you could just as easily never see again. Instead, we're just dependent on 'the system'.

    Looking outside of developed countries, there hundreds of examples of societies and cultures where there isn't a supermarket on every corner, in which case you really have to build relationships and get along with people, whether it's with Mr Baker or Mr Farmer or whatever, in order to survive. And in those places, I can tell you from plenty of field experience, people often genuinely have many more close friends and are much closer to their extended families than we are in the west. In such cultures, people genuinely feel connected to others - not just the people they are very close to, but their neighbors, their communities, their tribes, and their fellow citizens in general. It's probably an important thing to bear in mind, especially since we seem to be dropping bombs on a lot of these sorts of folks these days.

    From an evolutionary perspective, situations of social interdependency are a more 'natural' state. I'm not sure if they are 'better' in every way, but they are probably healthier in a strict psychological sense.

  • by aslate (675607) <planetexpress@NospAM.gmail.com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:59PM (#15597670) Homepage
    Through the internet i've met a total of 39 people from a forum i frequent. We've met up several times in Europe and there've been other meets in the US and Australia.

    I flew to the US for a week long holiday, with the first weekend spent in NY meeting up with a group of 13 Americans, i travelled with 3 other Brits. We toured 6 states and 3 capitals in a week and it was one of the best holidays i've had. Although i'm only 17 (Started posting at 13) i've grown up with these people. Granted, i went on holiday with a 21, 24 and 34 year old and the next closest to my age was 20 that we met, but i'm great friends with all of these people and we regularly meet.

    If it weren't for the internet i wouldn't be mates with a 34 year old drummer from York. Although i was 13 when i joined, people thought i was 18, we talked to each other because we were interesting and liked the same topics, not because we met in a bar drunk and liked the face sitting opposite us.

    Is it an unusual way to meet people, probably. Is it a flawed way of meeting people? So far, absolutely not.
  • Useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Nowak (872479) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:21PM (#15597741)
    I wouldn't be surprised if most people reported themselves to have less of such friends even without the internet. It's entirely possible that this is how humans, who once used to be in high school or college, see themselves after they hit 30. Or after they hit 50. Or after they his 70.
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:32PM (#15597778)
    I'm glad to know I don't have any friends because of the Internet.

    All these years, I thought it was because I was an asshole.
  • Rubbish (Score:3, Funny)

    by mattwarden (699984) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:41PM (#15597809) Homepage
    I have 739 facebook friends, so I don't know what the hell these guys are talking about.
  • by Naomi_the_butterfly (707218) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:41PM (#15597814)
    What do you mean, I lack friends? Just look at my MySpace friends list!
  • Why just today a bunch of friends wrote - there was Tim, Sinjin and Elrond letting me know about my problem with the gym & weight loss, and don't forget Mike who told me how to increase my love muscle!

    I getmail from all the gals too, such as Sonjia and Marci, who both saw my stats on a dataing site (funny I never signed up for any dating sites...) but they REALLY want to meet me!

    That guy who wrote the article must just be a loser. ;-D

  • by McLuhanesque (176628) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:16PM (#15598342) Homepage
    Like the one published at the beginning of the year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
    The Strength of Internet Ties [pewinternet.org], authored by Jeffrey Boase, John Horrigan, Barry Wellman, and Lee Rainie found "The internet and email aid users in maintaining their social networks and provide pathways to help when people face big decisions" The press release [pewinternet.org] that publicized the report says, "One major payoff comes when people use the internet to press their social networks into action as they face major challenges. People not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into their quest for information and advice as they seek help and make decisions. ... One major benefit comes when people want to mobilize their networks as they face problems or significant decisions. The Pew Internet Project survey finds that internet users are more likely than non-users to have been helped by those in their networks as they faced important events in their life. "Internet use provides online Americans a path to resources, such as access to people who may have the right information to help deal with family health crises or find a new job," says John Horrigan, Associate Director for Research at the Pew Internet Project."

    The Duke/Arizona study is flawed in its analysis, as it interprets correlation as indicating causality, a common mistake among quantitative researchers.
  • by thomasa (17495) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @09:23PM (#15598587)
    I think the decline of social clubs and organizations has been going in for many
    decades. I would blame, not the Internet but Television, The Interstate highway
    system, and Subburbs. I think they are way our of date in their study. There
    used to be tons of social networks, organizations and support groups in society.
    Now days no on belongs to them. E.g., the Jaycees, The Odd fellows, The Daughters
    of the American Revolution, other civic organizations, etc. If I were dictator
    of this country, I would ban Television.

    Quote from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_capital [wikipedia.org]
    Social capital "refers to the collective value of all 'social networks' and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other," according to Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and the concept's leading exponent (though not its originator). According to Putnam and his followers, social capital is a key component to building and maintaining democracy. Putnam says that social capital is declining in the United States. This is seen in lower levels of trust in government and lower levels of civic participation. Putnam also says that television and urban sprawl have had a significant role in making America far less connected.
    Unquote

  • or (Score:5, Funny)

    by gfody (514448) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @10:00PM (#15598704)
    Girlfriends are to blame. For some reason they hate all your friends and you have to stop hanging out with them or you get no sex.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:32AM (#15599259) Homepage
    There is one word that is VERY important in this discussion, and I don't see it much on these pages:

    CORPORATIONS

    So in most cases, nobody makes any money when people can connect and help each other feel good and solve each other's problems. Now, if they are connecting and buying coffee, or they are coming togther and buying entertainment, or they are coming together and buying a meal -- then somebody's making a buck. Or maybe they are coming together in a college classroom, or a dance class, or meeting at the mall. there is a buck there too. Let's not even start with bars.

    The one thing I see more and more is the wholesale cash-for-connection thing in the US that is not in other parts of the world. Basically you have to pay to have any place where you can meet *new* people and socialize.

    The other affect corporations have is that they keep most people SO busy working to survive, there is little time or energy left to have many friends. This may be toward a demographic older than most /. readers - but I know in my life, the more the work-a-day world takes my time, there is less time for friends. This also is almost uniquely American.

    Finally, the rise in corporate power has further stratified society along money lines. In the US we have more financial difference between the top and bottom since the early 1900s. There is virtually no middle class anymore. What this leads to is a reluctance of peopel to reach out to others, for fear of crossing the (now huge) social chasm created by wealth disparity.

    I think the rise in power of corporations is largely to blame for destroying the social networks of people - as much or more than the "Internet". Basically, the Internet to me is near-free, near-instant, widely available communication. By ITSELF - more communication will help people connect to more people in more meaningful ways than ever possible before. We have only seen the first 2-5% of what is possible because of the Internet. Instant communication will break down all barriers eventually and lead to abundance.

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