Social Isolation Educates
McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears study in American Sociological Review
This past June an interesting article on the change of core discussion networks in America appeared in American Sociological Review and was covered in the New York Times. Access the article here. The authors used data from the General Social Survey to show that over the last two decades core personal discussion networks have been shrinking and that the number of social isolates in America (those who report that the size of their discussion network is 0; in other words, that there is no one with whom they "discuss important matters") has nearly tripled.
This study is worth reading, for it raises many interesting questions about contemporary American society. For instance: How is it possible that amid the rise of a ubiquitous social apparatus (the world wide web) - one which increasingly provides the engine upon which information is generated and communication is facilitated - Americans report having fewer and fewer confidants? The web connects people, it does not isolate them. Wouldn't intuition tell us that amid such change the number of close confidants would rise, or at least stay relatively the same, but certainly not fall? Or is it actually the case that upon being increasingly inundated with information persons turn to fewer and fewer trustworthy friends and relatives to make sense of an overwhelming amount of ideational material? What has a pedagogical influence? Friends? Or screens?
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears, M. (2006). Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades. American Sociological Review, 71, p. 353-375.