The Friendship Recession02-19-2023
The Friendship Recession
Addie Page describes her search for new friends amidst what is increasingly being seen as a crisis of friendship. American have fewer friends and they spend less time with friends every week. This can lead to what Page describes as “learned loneliness.” This retreat of friendship is part of the background for the Hannah Arendt Center’s upcoming 2023 Conference “Friendship and Politics.” Save the date, Oct. 12-13. Page writes:
In recent study of over 2000 adults, a whopping two thirds of us are actively trying to grow our inner circle right now.
Put another way: if you look at any three random adults, it’s not just that two of them are thinking, Maybe another friend or two would be cool. It’s that two of them are thinking, I need friends so badly right now, and I am struggling so hard to find them, that I am going to make a game plan and change my lifestyle and sign up for some dumb AF comedy class so that I can sink my hooks into a new person and claw my way out of this situation.
This is not normal.
According to Dr. Robin Dunbar, who analyzed the study, “Lockdown made people rethink a lot of their friendships. and one of the big problems [has been] friendships are very dependent of continued investment of time, so if you aren’t able to see individuals at the requisite rate, they’re just going to slide.” Dr. Dunbar points out, also, that meeting online seems to keep families close together, but it doesn’t work for friends. For whatever reason, most friendships need face-to-face contact to survive.
Another study pointed out that this decline in face-to-face contact with friends started long before the pandemic. In 2014, we spent over six hours a week with friends, on average. It’s been dropping steadily since, and we’re down to less than half that now: just two hours and forty-three minutes a week.
Researchers theorize that this drop is due to “learned loneliness.” Psychologist Marisa G Franco, author of Platonic, explains it this way:
The issue we are seeing now is something called ‘learned loneliness’ — people have adjusted to isolation. It’s not that they have gone off socializing, it’s that they have learned to live with an unfulfilled need. A recent study from Pew Research showed that 35% of people feel that socializing is less important than it was before the pandemic.