It might come as a surprise to many Americans that loneliness has become a growing problem nationwide. The "friendship recession" is only gaining momentum as recent findings have revealed that the number of individuals without friends has increased by 250% over the last few years. In this article, we will attempt to dissect the phenomenon, and explore the potential implications of an isolated citizenry.
At first glance, being without a friend or two may not seem like a widespread concern. After all, most of us can count upon our fingers the number of friends we surround ourselves with, those we interact with on a regular basis. But a closer examination tells a different story; studies have indicated that friendship carries with it substantial economic and psychological benefits. Hence, declining levels of friendship in our society equate to a tangible social cost.
What could be causing our acquaintanceships to fizzle? It boils down to a number of factors that have slowly taken hold of our lives, many of which are tied to our modern lifestyles. Firstly, technology has enabled an ease of communication that has replaced face-to-face interactions. Far from being social, however, these means of connecting–not least of all the Internet–have only served to add further distance between us.
Ellie Mustard, a psychologist based in Boston, corroborates this trend: "With the advent of online communication, people are seemingly unable to carry conversations beyond the digital realm. Towards creating meaningful relationships, they feel conspicuously ill-equipped."
Added to this, the mounting pressures of work have left no opening for leisurely pursuits. More often than not, choices must be made between dedicating quality time to our families, or to our beloved friends. This predicament puts us in a double bind, as relationships of both kinds suffer.
The workplace does agree, however. Growing awareness of these issues has led to more organizations offering various support systems for their personnel. Yet for the vast majority of workers, such resources remain inaccessible.
Loneliness, although on the rise, is something that can largely be remedied in an individual capacity. Engaging with the world around us, even in the most small ways, can have a positive effect on our mental state. Consequently, regaining lost companions may take nothing but a willingness to extend a hand of friendship.
The "friendship recession" has much to teach us about how we live our lives. We ought not allow ourselves to forget that it takes effort to build strong relationships, for the mutual gain of our collective wellbeing.