Thursday, June 29, 2006


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Current mood: lethargic

I read a very interesting short article in Time magazine today. It reports, "a study finds Americans are getting lonelier". The study specifically found "a one-third drop in the number of people with whom the average American can discuss 'important matters'." This drop occured between 1985 and 2004.

The article connects this drop with other symptomatic evidence of increasing social isolation: less participation in PTAs, clubs, charities and family dinners for instance. I can certainly attest to a sad drop in participation in neighborhood association activities- I volunteer with our neighborhood association, and the apathy and lack of interest we get from residents is very discouraging. Always I hear people decry the fact that nobody knows their neighbors any more, that schools don't have support from parents and that there in no real sense of community any more. But then when it comes to cultivating these social connections and supporting our communities, all of a sudden they just don't have the time or the energy for it. Likewise, there has been noise in the news lately on the importance of the family dinner (including a recent article in Time)- how families that dine all together regularly tend to eat healthier and communicate better, not to mention a whole list of other benefits I can't remember right now. But how many families do you know that sit down together for supper every night?

I am now thinking of a third article I read in Time not long ago (can you tell we subscribe? LOL) about multi-tasking and how it has been affecting the current younger generation. One effect of ipods, cellphones, e-mail and yes, myspace has been that many teens are less socially adept in a focused, one-on-one conversation than previous generations have been. They get distracted easily. I bet this might tie in to the loneliness issue, as well.

Is it true? Well, I think it probably is. Besides less participation in our communities, less meaningful communication in our families and less practice at focused, engaged one-on-one socializing, we also have less extended family at hand to support and mentor us in our daily lives. Now that I am a mother, I understand much better the importance of a supportive family network. There is so much that used to be available to moms and kids (and dads too) right within the family, that now we must seek out in planned social interaction. I desperately need mommy friends to exchange information with, share gripes and goopy lovey mommy joys with, share adult conversation with (while our kids get to share arcane childhood knowledge, combine exuberant energy and work out complex social norms). I use the internet to chat and share information, and to research for information that used to be shared within the family or community. I meet with my mommy friends for the all important social interaction and the chance to share a meal, activities, babysitting, tips etc etc. The good thing about this is that I have a much wider realm of information and people I can choose from. My mommy friends are not only wonderfully helpful, they are also cool people that I'd probably like to hang out with anyway. Family doesn't always offer that luxury. But the bad thing is, it takes a lot more time and effort to cultivate these connections now, whereas in years past they were right there, waiting for you- moms, aunts, cousins, grandparents, sisters, neighbors. . . some of us still have a family network but all too often the old support networks are too far-flung or too busy to be of much help.

So, I guess the point is that now, it takes a lot more effort to cultivate the kind of social connections that sustain and support us. Too many of us lack the social support we need. So, get out there and join something! Talk to people, and find the time to get involved. It pays back with interest. :)

Time articles:
On the loneliness study:,9171,1207822,00.html
On the family dinner:,10987,1200760,00.html
On multi-tasking:,10987,1174696,00.html

The last two are previews only, bacause you have to subscribe to view the whole article. Sorry!

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