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In the Age of Social Media, People Say They Want More Real Friends

An innovative study reveals that more than 75% of Americans are unhappy with their friendships.
 
 
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Have you ever felt like your friendship is suffering from a prolonged period of stagnation? You’re not alone. According to Lifeboat co-founder Tim Walker, most Americans say they would prefer to have deeper friendships than more friends.

“People are feeling more insecure and unconfident about the quality of their friendships than ever before. That’s the experience of most adults across the country,” Walker told AlterNet.

Walker and co-founder Alia McKee, launched the very first "State of Friendship in America Report 2013," in response to their own independent, mid-life friendship slumps, with a view to discovering what friendship in adulthood really meant.

“We wanted to see if the friendship crisis in our own lives and in academic studies was taking a toll on the real lives of American people,” McKee told AlterNet.

Drawing upon academia, expert advice, philosophy and the assistance of two research teams on the quest to unlock the social science of friendship, McKee and Walker surveyed over 10,000 Americans across the country in search of finding answers.

Among the key findings in the study was that gen-Xers and baby boomers are hit hardest by the friendship crisis, exhibiting lower levels of satisfaction then millennials and seniors.

“Today’s generation is extremely busy and heavily invested in juggling a career and family and as a result these friendships have been sacrificed,” McKee explained.

The report also found that while women said they had access to more intimate friendships than men, they were not any happier than men with the state of their friendships. What’s more, the use of social media did not factor in the quality of one’s friendships or one’s overall friendship satisfaction.

“We have broader connections than ever before. However, social media isn’t helping us connect in terms of creating better friendships. The real gauge on whether people will be satisfied depends on the depth of the relationship you have created,” Walker said.

The good news for those of us who are suffering from "friendship inertia" is that there are a number of easy techniques we can use to spice up our old friendships or recreate deeper bonds. According to McKee, those seeking greater fulfillment from their friendships should invest more time and energy into the relationships they consider “close” -- with one of the primary predictors of friendship being "proximity."

“We’re not purposeful about who we choose as friends. Friendships happen to us through work, our daily lives and where we live. One of the joys of life is being introduced to new ideas, new professions and new ways of thinking. By purposefully seeking out people who are different from us, we can become more satisfied in relationships,” McKee told Alternet.

In addition to providing insight into the art of making and having friends, the study also revealed some quirky facts about friendships across various demographic groups in the United States:

  • Those who attend religious ceremonies once a week or more are twice as satisfied with their friendships then those who do not.
  • Conservatives are more satisfied in friendships than liberals.
  • Urban residents are happier with their friendships than those living in rural areas.
  • Most Americans don’t believe their close friends would bail them out of jail, lend them $500 or donate a kidney.

If you’re interested in how to become a better friend, Lifeboat has developed a list of Ten Simple And Powerful Practices of Amazing Friends to give people practical solutions on how to become an excellent friend. As Walker explained, “deep friendships give people greater meaning in life, higher levels of longevity, clear direction and a higher degree of empathy toward others.”

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.

 

 
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