Friday, June 23, 2006

Social Isolation On The Rise

A just-published survey seems to show that fewer of us have friends to whom we can personally confide. In 1985, 75% of Americans had a confidant, but in 2004 that percentage had dropped to 50%.

Excerpt from the June 23, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:

"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

"A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

"The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent....

"If close social relationships support people in the same way that beams hold up buildings, more and more Americans appear to be dependent on a single beam.

"Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in. But if people face trouble in that relationship, or if a spouse falls sick, that means these people have no one to turn to for help...

'"They may have 600 friends on [a popular networking Web site] and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important.'"
The article mentions television and work obligations as possible causes of the drop in social interaction. Read the entire article, which doesn't mention loneliness. Perhaps the word loneliness is no longer an acceptable word, or perhaps loneliness is an outcome of social isolation.

Interestingly enough, on the very next page of this same print edition of the Washington Post is this article, about depression.

Your thoughts about the increase of social isolation and a possible connection to some types of depression?


At 6/23/2006 9:22 AM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Nice posting AOW..the more technology we have the more isolated we've become..every see folks walkin down the street or inna care and theyre both on cell phones talking to others!!...sheesh whuts up wif dat!..lolz

At 6/23/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger elmers brother said...

that and it's too much work

At 6/23/2006 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave it to Mr. Ducky to blame corporate America for the isolation of individuals. However, reality does indeed bite and a major factor of isolation/loneliness/depression are the choices we make in pulling back. This can be because of time on the internet (a major impersonal & anonymous source of isolation) undiagnosed dysthymic disorder (sadness and isolation but not to the extent of major depression which is a much more serious affective disorder) and an increasing lack of trust in our social fabric. When people see, for example, politicians shamelessly promising the moon and then nothing happens, when we see immorality in our church leaders, almost a total lack of discipline in our schools etc., it is easy to become discouraged and more isolated.

Well, that is my 2 cents worth as a psychotherapist with 35 years of treating people with affective disorders.

At 6/23/2006 3:17 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...

I thank God I have my wife, without her, I'd be stuck with no one I feel I could really talk to about anything.

Let's be honest, the entertainment industry has done it. not capitalism as Duck would invision.

Capitalism has been around much longer than the TV Duck, so wrong logic line there.

At 6/23/2006 3:20 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

I am a stay at home mom. We are on a squeaky-tight budget, but we have what we need and are happy.

I blame social isolation on "women's lib."

As more and more women have entered the workplace, entire neighborhoods are basically deserted during the day;thus,
we have become a more socially isolated people. Kids are in daycare, and no one plays outside during the summertime anymore!

When I was little, shortly before the internet and cell phones became so prevalent, my mom knew every other mom on the block, because we (kids) all played at each other's houses.

My neighborhood is barren during the day, except for two elderly ladies.

At 6/23/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger Old Soldier said...

Well, I’m no psychotherapist (I’ve been accused of being psycho, does that count?), but I do have a few years of living under my belt. Quite a few times it looked like the living would be cut short, but that’s another story…

I believe the replacement of social events with technology is having an adverse impact on intersocial skills development. There is a large variety of detractors available; cell phones, electronic games, the internet, television, etc. all replace the old family time that I experienced. Families today rarely sit down to a meal together once a week much less once a day. Families themselves have changed in that roughly 50% end up as single parent or single parent with a significant other. Personal commitment to a marriage is no where near as valued as it used to be. When kids hit the age of 12 (plus minus) parents flee the home for employment and are not there when the kids come home from school. In other words the kids are on their own at earlier ages and for longer periods of times. They are not getting the feedback from adults that produces social interactive skills. (That’s a generalization – not meant to be all encompassing.)

The work environment is usually a structured environment with established protocols that is not meant for socializing – just efficiency. Too people change jobs frequently, so long term relationships don’t build. The military too is constantly moving folks around, so no one stays in a place very long, but the difference is; when your life depends upon your buddy, you get friendly fast.

Ducky certainly hits upon a contributing phenomenon regarding the small communities and small church communities diminishing. The north seems more impacted for some reason (I was born and raised in CT so chastise me for my comment) than does the south. Perhaps it is because of the higher percentage of churchgoers in the south. I personally would lend credence to that thought.

It will certainly be “interesting” to see the direction we continue in for the next couple decades. Great topic AOW.

At 6/23/2006 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sense of loneliness and isolation may be both relative and self-imposed. It may have something to do with maturation, too. In our younger years, we have “lots of friends.” As we grow older, we come to realize that at best, those friends were mere acquaintances; eventually, we all go our separate ways. So our “loneliness” today is relative to having many friends in former times. It is self-imposed, I think, because we also come to realize that if, at the end of your life, you can count five true friends, you are about three genuine friends ahead of almost everyone else.

Few people in this world can be trusted with our confidences. We learn this hard way, over time. I agree that there are the “competing” interests already mentioned, but I also think that as human beings, we tend to expect too much of others; we are almost inevitably disappointed. Note some of the remarks above: disheartened by our political and spiritual leaders.

There are no perfect human beings; we all have frailties, and we are all likely to disappoint others, or become disillusioned by them. If we know ourselves, and others, not only by their strengths, but also by their weaknesses, loneliness is not altogether caste in stone. There is no need to withdraw from others, and there is no reason to allow isolation to become a self-fulfilling prophesy – unless solitude is what one really does prefer.

At 6/23/2006 10:46 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thanks to each one of you who has commented here. I'll be back to give more consideration to what you've had to say, but for now (It's late!) I'll just leave my own thoughts about the topic of this blog article.

Many neighborhoods are more transient that they once were. I know from personal experience that I've lost touch with some of my former confidants because they have moved to distant locations. I also think that we can sometimes outgrow friends as interests and focus change. Furthermore, maintaining a close friendship requires commitment and time.

My dearest friend, with whom I first made acquaintance in 1969, is the one constant in my life. Talk about close! Before I started dating the man I would shortly marry, I set her up on a date with him. Later, at my wedding, she was my maid of honor, the only bridal attendant.

My friend-for-life now lives in Texas, but the distance hasn't prevented our bond, despite the fact that we once went 20 years without laying eyes on each other. Describing the roots of that bond is elusive; we're alike in some ways, different in others. However, what makes this friendship work, I think, is that we put the other person first; also, we know that whatever we say to each other remains completely confidential and is never judged.

When either of us has a crisis, we support one another. In short, we trust and respect each other. Interestingly enough, both of us are more "the solitary type," and neither of us has other close friends. Maybe we don't need another confidant? Of the two of us, I'm the extrovert; nevertheless, I wouldn't say that I have another confidant such as she is to me.

At 6/24/2006 12:12 AM, Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

The circle of people who surround me changes as my life has changed. As a single young woman I had one friend who was married and had children. After marriage that changed of course and then life changed again. People come and go and sometimes come back (and are welcomed) again.

As a homeschooling mother my circle of people (only a couple 'friends' and many acquaintances though) has changed again. It's interesting to think that most people should have more than, say, 2 people to confide in - and if not than they are horribly isolated?!

About the wage that ducky speaks of - my husband and I are living the way my parents lived with one wage-earner. A house in a working class neighborhood (no McMansion), one half-way decent car (the other going through it's death throes), no yearly trip to Disney, most meals made and eaten in the home, most activities very close to home, help from the grands for the luxuries of extracurricular activities for the kids. There are months when it can be frightening to live this way - but it all works out in the end. People CAN live on one income, just not the way ducky envisions that that people SHOULD be living?

At 6/24/2006 8:52 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Old Soldier,
I believe the replacement of social events with technology is having an adverse impact on intersocial skills development. There is a large variety of detractors available; cell phones, electronic games, the internet, television, etc. all replace the old family time that I experienced. Families today rarely sit down to a meal together once a week much less once a day.

I agree. I also see many parents, particularly in two-worker households, substituting sports activities for family time. Sometimes that substitution results because of time restraints and fatigue on the part of the working parents; other times I think that parents have forgotten how to interact with their own children.

As for the children themselves, many would rather sit indoors and enjoy the various technologies at their disposal. Many of these young people seem addicted to the various technologies, which have moved far beyond merely watching television, pretty much the only family-eroding technology available when I was growing up.

I wonder if the various technologies actually promote the isolation described in the WaPo article.

Mustang and Monica R,
Yes, during different phases of our lives our social interactions undergo change. This is natural, I think.

Mustang said, we also come to realize that if, at the end of your life, you can count five true friends, you are about three genuine friends ahead of almost everyone else.

An old saying my mother used to have, more or less. Real friends, aka confidants, are a rare commodity.

As I mentioned in a previous comment here, maintaining a friendship requires energy, from both parties. Also, there is the matter of betrayal of confidences. Some 10 years ago, I had a confidant at work and trusted her with some personal details which got passed around. I've been more cautious since that time.

My neighborhood is the same, with only a few of us at home during the day. Such was not the case in the 1970s.

My circle is a bit wider than yours, but not by much. I agree with you that the following is a major cause of the isolation: the entertainment industry has done it. Has the entertainment industry also contributed to ADD and ADHD?

the more technology we have the more isolated we've become..every see folks walkin down the street or inna care and theyre both on cell phones talking to others!

Cell phones and i-pods!

Ever year more and more women and some men are returning home and giving up the extra vacations and new cars sure but because they know raising their children is the more important.

I don't see that happening in Northern Virginia, where so many are determined to own McMansions, the mortgages for which usually require a two-worker household.

It is the liberal/commie agenda that has wrecked the fabric of faith in this country...

When I was growing up, churches were a very important part of social interaction. Sure, there were gossips and back-biters to contend with. But overall, the churches in a community played an important part of the fabric of the community, particularly with regard to service (helping out the community in times of personal or local crisis). The church doors were open 24/7. Not so now.

We also used to have general stores, which were pretty safe hangouts. Those have been replaced with impersonal convenience-marts.

GM Roper,
Thank you for your excellent comment.

when we see immorality in our church leaders, almost a total lack of discipline in our schools etc., it is easy to become discouraged and more isolated.

I see that withdrawal as a form of self-protection. People come home from work and nestle down in their private havens. I don't see porch-sitters in my neighborhood, although all of us have nice front porches. No longer do we chat on the street in impromptu fashion as we did as recently as 1995. Crime is not the problem, as this neighborhood doesn't have that problem.

All forms of community are slowly dissolving.

I think that "all forms" is an exaggeration, but I would say that most of the forms are being eroded.

While not all megachurches are impersonal, I would agree with you that the smaller churches fostered more of a sense of community.

Time is a factor. In your case, I suspect that family matters come first. Oftentimes, those family matters preclude a lot of outside interaction.

At 6/24/2006 8:53 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

How many here even know the names of their neighbors on their streets or in their apartment buildings?

At 6/24/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger Dardin Soto said...

Brooke: Ditto on that comment.

At 6/24/2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Dan Zaremba said...

How many here even know the names of their neighbors on their streets or in their apartment buildings?

We know all our nighbours. And we organize drinks together once or twice each year.

But, the truth is we are not really close with our neighbours.

But perhaps OZ is still very 'provincial'.

At 6/24/2006 11:30 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

You asked how many people here know the names of their neighbors on their streets or in their apartment buildings. Well, I know the names of my neighbors, even though the closest one is half a mile away! I also know the names of all the people who attend my small church. We are full when there are 35 people in the pews! :)

I don't know if isolation has anything to do with depression... I think it depends on the person who is isolated. I'm not a depressed personality and I am pretty dang isolated. I choose to live in the country and socialize in town when I feel like socializing. I would probably get depressed if I had a lot of people around me 24 seven.

I have seen others who are depressed and it seems to me they choose to isolate themselves because they are depressed. So I'm wondering what comes first, the depression and then isolation, or unintentional isolation and then depression? I still think it depends on the individual. People cannot be put in a box because we aren't all alike.

Interesting post, AOW! :)

At 6/24/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger maccusgermanis said...

It is an interesting post. AOW

DUCKY wrote,

"Why do we work so hard for what we don't really want?
To prop up capitalism but I'm going to be a minority of one here with that opinion."

Capitalism is entirely based on self-determination. We are working, so hard, for what we don't necessarily want not because of some supposed overseer's evil design, but for the many individual's lack of design. However corrosive you may think capitalism is to our communities, we must individually take responsibilty for our own participation.

I don't see that capitalism itself encourages isolation, as much as the mis-application of its principles.

While shopping for products does build our economies and rises our standard of living, shopping for friends detroys our communities and so, a standard of living. In a society with, still cheap transportation, and even cheaper tele-comunications, it becomes too easy for people to discount one another, in a search for like minded people.

AOW I know the names of my immediate neighbors, but I still know more citizens of, and think of as home, a small town some miles east of my current location.

At 6/24/2006 3:37 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I used to know all of my neighbors quite well, and we all used to be porch-sitters on nice evenings. Since this area became an edge city, those niceties have gone by the wayside. I'm glad to hear from a few of you that such is not the case in others' communities.

I'm not sure if social isolation contributes to depression--probably not to clinical depression. But I do feel that social isolation can lead to "the blues."

At 6/24/2006 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? I have neighbors?

At 6/24/2006 7:46 PM, Blogger Dan Zaremba said...

But I do feel that social isolation can lead to "the blues."

I think you're right but at the same time I've never felt more 'connected' than now
Superficial contacts which we have with neighbours, people on the street at work or communities don't make as any less isolated.
Just subtitutes for true companionship as much as TV.

At 6/24/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

Social isolation also comes from isolation from family. Namely, the incredible shrinking American family. We used to have more kids, stay married, have lots of cousins and uncles and aunts and nephews, etc, that always kept us busy in life. Now, the family unit is in shambles, and the resulting loss of people we can rely on and share life with has shrunk to a depressing nub.

Community evolved from this. We had neighbors who helped watch kids, who helped feed the fish if we were out of town, who helped us move a couch if we needed it, etc. Now, the neighborhoods are a series of broken homes, transient and empty.

I'm sooo lucky to have a good community and solid marriage and tightly knit family unit. Without that, life would not be so fun or satisfying.

Oh, wait, I almost forgot to blame corporate America and capitalism for this mess, and declare Marxism as the lone solution to all these horrible social problems we face. How silly of me.

At 6/25/2006 5:21 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

OH man, and I thought it was just old age. Neighbors, I can remember 4 of their names. The only people I'm really close to any more are my wife, and she has serious health problems, thats frightening, my "older" sister and my daughter, in Portland, Oregon, quite a distance from Saint Joseph, Missouri. I think we out grow some friends. We're no longer interested in the same things.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 6/25/2006 6:55 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

AoW- Great comments and a very pertinent article! I can name most of my neighbors and we can depend on each other, my son walks the dog of an elderly lady on another block, she pays him in food! My husband's and my own family have nothing to do with us, but at church my Sunday school class is like brothers and sisters. I can call 3 of them with personal problems and they can call on me! Being a homeschooler does put you into an entirelly different group that helps each other, but no confidents there. Fortunatelly our church is very supportive of small groups, so lonely people can belong to a "family" and believe me they are family to each other!
gm Roper- I do pro bono counselling of women for my church and the number of families that suffer because they have bought into "stuff"! Stuff never replaces people! Even as a widow, I made the quality choice to stay home and continue homeschooling. Social security pays enough to cover bills and buy food. It isn't luxurious and we can't afford a lot, but we know each other as a family. We eat together on average 6 dinners a week together, alot of the time with additions. My house resembles Teen Grand Central and sleep overs are common, I figure for some it's the only real "family" time they experience! Teen friends of my 2 often call to talk to me about their lives and problems. If I wasn't available, where would they turn and what kind of decisions would they make? I figure it's community service for the future!
Good morning and G*D bless!


At 6/25/2006 6:14 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Kamal Jaqi,
I think that practice is still pretty common in the hills of east Tennessee. Those hillbillies don't seem to mind isolation as long as their moonshine trade is left alone.

We had a little feud here in Virginia not long ago. One fellow ended up dead. The one responsible for his death was acquitted but is suing the widow of the dead fellow for her husband's having provoked him into the killing. I think the dispute was something about who would pay for a fence. Those two fellows could have used a bit of isolation. LOL.

At 6/25/2006 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this and wondered if some of us are substituting our 'blog and internet' friends' for real life in person friends. By the time I get finished with everything on the computer, everything in the house, everything in the yard, taking care of the hubby, blah blah blah, I'm pooped.

At 6/25/2006 6:49 PM, Blogger Barry G. said...

In a number of cases people of just to busy having sex.

At 6/25/2006 6:55 PM, Blogger nanc said...

yikes, aow! with "friends" like that, who needs enemas?

At 6/25/2006 6:56 PM, Blogger nanc said...

that kamal jaqi is starting to grow on me - i must go visit his site!

At 6/25/2006 7:28 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Kamal Jaqi has a unique site. I just discovered it today!

At 6/25/2006 7:29 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Kamal Jaqi,
I doubt that those hillbillies worry too much about Allah. Most of the hillbillies whom I know are Southern Baptists.

At 6/25/2006 7:31 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I think that we bloggers do a certain amount of substituting cyber friends for face-to-face friends. Of course, our blogs are available 24/7, and our face-to-face friends are not.

At 6/25/2006 8:06 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

"Most of the hillbillies whom I know are Southern Baptists."


At 6/25/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

BAHAHA!!! The site by "Kamal" is brilliant! Great humor! Bravo!!

At 6/25/2006 9:02 PM, Blogger nanc said...

wow! it's a great site, aow!

At 6/25/2006 11:30 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Very interesting.... I wonder if computers and the Internet are to blame. Lord knows it's ruined a couple of marriages I know. ;)

At 6/26/2006 6:54 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I wonder if computers and the Internet are to blame. Lord knows it's ruined a couple of marriages I know.

All things in moderation--Internet, included.

Good to see you making rounds again.

You're an optimist.

At 6/26/2006 6:56 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I don't know if the survey took age into account. I've noticed that many older people are more isolationist. Fatigue or introspection?

At 6/26/2006 6:59 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Kamal Jaqi,
Moonshine is forbidden, but aren't hookahs okay?

At 6/26/2006 7:03 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

We have no homeowners association in my neighborhood as we're not a formal subdivision. But the County's zoning regulations tie our hands in unbelievable ways; so I discovered to my chagrin when I spent a whole morning at the zoning commission's office a few weeks ago.

Interesting color scheme on that Victorian. In our neighborhood, we have a true Victorian still standing. The others--new ones built aroudn 1985--are garish structures. One magazine here described them as "can-can dancers."

At 6/26/2006 7:03 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mad Zionist,
Now that you've found Kamal's site, I hope that you'll still visit here. ;)

At 6/26/2006 7:05 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Moonshiners in Virginia (Yes, we have some here) go to a variety of churches. But in the Deep South, Southern Baptists prevail, despite the church's teachings.

At 6/26/2006 7:07 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mad Zionist,
Social isolation also comes from isolation from family. Namely, the incredible shrinking American family.

Valid point! I hadn't considered that angle.

Furthermore, families are scattered now.

At 6/26/2006 7:09 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

What? I have neighbors?

Around here, people come home from work and hole up inside their private havens, with the TV on. Or, if not the TV, the computers.

At 6/26/2006 7:11 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

A church, large or small, can foster the sense of community.

You're right about homeschooling; not all homeschooling parents serve as confidants for each other.

At 6/26/2006 7:13 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Missing Link,
Superficial contacts which we have with neighbours, people on the street at work or communities don't make as any less isolated.
Just subtitutes for true companionship as much as TV.

I believe that some confuse superficial contacts with true confidants.

At 6/26/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

AoW- The funniest line I ever heard was from a NYC ditz who claimed to have 500 close personal friends! No kidding, she started working amongst a lot of Southerners, that line went over like the proverbial pregnant pole vaulter! She couldn't understand why noone ever took her seriously!
And I'm not impling that anymore people from NYC are ditzy than normal! She would have been ditzy from anywhere!


At 6/26/2006 1:28 PM, Blogger G_in_AL said...


Sorry so long in resonse here, but I think we can blame our tech/entertainment industry for many of the social ills. Whether or not their pro's are more than the con's is up for debate.

What folks like Ducky dont understand is that people are not having to run two income households because of capitalism, they are running those because of a warped perception of what "needs" are.

Back in the 50's, a TV was the extent of your entertainment luxury. Now, we've got high-speed internet, digital cable or satalite. We've got not only a land line phone, but a couple of cell phones. We've got stereo systems, we've got luxury cars, we've got movie rentals and movie theaters...

But most of all, we've got even more free time where we think we should be doing some thing fun and exciting... that costs money.

There was a time when 1200 sq feet and a wall unit AC was living good. There was a time when the family sat around the radio for half an hour, then went to bed. There was a time when one car was all anyone needed, and kids barrowed their parents car.

Now we've got governemnt provided cable TV for the projects.. because it's a need, not a want.

At 6/27/2006 3:51 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...

There is a long-established relationship between social isolation and depression.

We are a group-living species to begin with, and so we have a genetically driven need for the company of others of our kind. Even when we treat each other very badly, we prefer to live among our own.

At the level of the individual, look at those situations which are most closely associated with depression and even death. Some years ago, I saw a study where within five years of retirement, many military members have died. I can't remember the number any more, but it was a jaw-dropper (I want to say about 80%, but don't quote me). The depression comes from the loss of a sense of purpose and identity, and the social company of fellows. Some retirees get a real sense of pleasure just from going to the Commissary and the Exchange.

In prisons,the very fact of isolation from society at large is significant, and within prison, one of the most effective punishments for infractions is solitary confinement.

In ancient Celtic society, and in some modern American religions, ostracism was a punishment for violations against the group.

Early in Israel's history, there were many infants to care for but there were very few caretakers. The babies were left alone, isolated, in their wards for hours on end. These children were the subjects of classical studies showing the effect of isolation on the ability to develop social relationships; it was, needless to say, very impaired.

Some of the things that have been associated with social isolation are: The change in architecture and urban planning - sidewalks and front porches used to be a staple of most neighborhoods, allowing easy communication as people walked around. These have been found to be so important in promoting a sense of cohesion in neighborhoods that many architects are putting them back into the plans.

Another is the fact that the older you get, the harder it is to develop deep personal relationships with people outside the biological family.

Biology changes our focus from other people (where the pool of potential mates will come from) to the nuclear family, where the expenditure of social energy is better spent on the well being of each of the parents and their children.

As young parents with children, social relationships among adults come primarily through either at work or through children's activities - school, birthdays, sleepovers, etc.

Adults also develop a social sense when they join social clubs, professional associations, athletic groups, common-interest groups (love bettas? There's a group for that! Roses? Cats? Gourd craft? Photography? There are groups for those!), or "causes" such as political parties or even (gasp!) people in the Blogosphere who are fighting Islam!

Far from increasing social isolation, communications technology fills a void created by an increasingly mobile society with long work hours and activities that require absence from our loved ones. The use of the cell phone to keep in touch with a child or spouse (even if it's just to say "Hi, I'm going to be a little late") helps break the isolation. Or perhaps conducting some business on the phone helps shorten the time spent away from family and friends.

The fact that so many of us are in touch with each other in the Blogosphere serves not only a deeply felt need to fight a common threat, but also helps break the sense that each of us is in it alone - we are not, and that's very gratifying.

Even the much maligned soap operas and other TV shows and radio fill a social function. Everyone has heard that many viewers feel as though well known actors or talk show hosts are almost like members of their families. While this can be pathological, usually it isn't; social relationships are a little like sunshine; some parents use sunshine to explain love to their children: Even though there are many siblings in the sunshine, each child gets as much sunshine as he can, and gets no less just because a brother or sister is in the sunshine too.

The same goes for social relationships that aren't formed with people you "socialize" with directly; just because you have "real" social relationships doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't form other kinds of social relationships with TV personae, the phone, the Blogosphere, etc.

The most profound sense of social loss is the death of a spouse. Most widows and widowers don't ever fully get over it.

As a group-living species, social relationships of all sorts have an enormous effect on every aspect of our lives, and we need them the same way we need physical nourishment.

At 6/27/2006 4:15 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thank you for your in-depth comment. You have explained so many aspects of this posting's topic.

The depression comes from the loss of a sense of purpose and identity, and the social company of fellows.

I think that each of us has seen that kind of depression in certain retirees. A spouse cannot possibly fulfill all the roles which comrades once did.

Another is the fact that the older you get, the harder it is to develop deep personal relationships with people outside the biological family.

You went on to explain why so well. It's not just a matter of fatigeue or of age, but of biochemistry.

Despite all the benefits of the blogosphere, we must remember not to forget the face-to-face interactions, IMO. But the friendships we establish here are important, as you pointed out.

At 6/28/2006 6:44 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Cubed- As a widow I can relate, I have been blessed with a church family, who acts like family! There is another widow in my Sunday school class. It is a class of couples, but it acts like brothers and sisters! We eat and do day trips together, help each other with home projects and call each other regularly. Already established relationships can be a huge help in getting over the humps in life. I was tremendously helped by an older widow, now I can turn around and help others who have a spouse with cancer. I have found that if you allow HIM, G*D will take your weakness or greatest pain and turn it into ministry. And spit in Satan's eye at the same time! If you have an outlet that uses what you have experienced, you have gainned the victory. I have cyclical depression, but I have learned that when I want to withdraw I have to reach out!
Good morning and G*D bless you with sunshine and dry weather!


At 6/28/2006 1:01 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

It IS "old fashioned brothel"!

In my dining room, I have a huge wall mirror which came out of a 19th Century brothel in D.C. (Georgetown area). I got the mirror through an estate sale.

My color scheme is nothing like yours, however. The rooms here are too small for that scheme.

At 6/29/2006 11:12 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Mussolini- Beautiful! The livingroom is a little busy for my taste, but the look is very authentic and elegant! You'll have to post pictures when the rest is done. Thanks!

P.S. AoW- Hope you're finally getting sunshine!


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