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Close friendships: why so few?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Many Americans have trouble maintaining close friendships. According to a 2006 study from the American Sociological Review, "25% of Americans have no close confidants, and the average total number of confidants per citizen has dropped from four to two." (source)

Here are some possible reasons for having few close friends:

  1. Many of us are too busy with work and family.
  2. We spend too much time watching TV or playing on the Internet.
  3. We spend time on social networking sites and on blogs, perhaps with the hope of making friends, but deep friendships tend not to develop online.
  4. Many people are addicted to food, drugs, or sex.
  5. People in romantic relationships often spend all their free time with their partners.
  6. A straight man may avoid friendship with women because he knows that he'll be romantically attracted to them. Similarly with gay men, straight women, etc.
  7. Peoples' partners sometimes won't let them have friends, for fear of romantic rivals.
  8. Some men feel competitive towards other men and much prefer female friends. Similarly, some women feel competitive towards other women and much prefer male friends. This halves the number of potential friends.
  9. Many people expect that their friends will be close to themselves in age. This limits their pool of potential friends.
  10. Some heterosexual men avoid close friendships with other men for fear of homosexuality, or for fear of being perceived to be gay.
  11. What good is a friend when a lover fulfills our needs so much more completely?
  12. At work we need to maintain a professional distance -- which makes it hard to develop friendships at work, even though you spend half your day there.
  13. Some people feel unworthy of friendship and are ashamed of their choices and careers.
  14. Many people quarrel with their friends and even their family.
  15. Suburban sprawl and the car culture make friendship difficult.
  16. Some people expect too much of their friends: time, emotional support, sympathy, or money. They have "boundary issues."
  17. People who don't attend a church, synagogue, mosque, temple tend to have less social interaction.
  18. Friendships don't last, especially online friendships.
  19. Some people have many casual friends but don't allow anyone to become a close friend.
  20. Oftentimes young people have many friends, but when they grow up they become busy and lose their old friends.
  21. People relocate so often that they never "put down roots" and they lose track of friends.

Perhaps you can suggest some additional significant reasons that I overlooked.

I'm doing research about close friendship in the age of the Internet. I'm particularly interested in exploring friendship's relation to love and romance. I want to hear peoples' thoughts, frustrations, and stories on the issues raised above.

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The issues cover a lot of ground. The three areas I want to concentrate on are:

  1. Why do people have trouble maintaining close non-romantic friendships? The answers may vary depending on whether the friendships are same-sex or opposite-sex, and on whether the people are heterosexual or homosexual.
  2. How do platonic friendships interact with romantic relationships? Are they in conflict? Many people in close romantic relationships become cut off from potential friends. Why is this and what can we do to remedy it?
  3. Can close non-romantic friendships develop online? How can blogs and social networking sites increase the depth and quality of friendships?

If you can spare 5 minutes, please fill out this survey. There's an area for adding comments, which you can use even if you don't have time to answer the multiple-choice questions. Or email me via OpEdNews if you want to continue the discussion started here.


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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)

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