Hello friends

Home » friends

Tagged friends

The article

Are You Lonely?

How many people do you count as your true friends? Are they close friends that you trust and have regular contact with or are they social media relationships sans the intimacy of face-to-face interactions? In today’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks points to research that shows there has been a decline in the number of high-quality friendships in the past three decades as he pondered the role that social media might play in this drop.

Brooks notes that in a 1985 poll, most Americans said they had about three people with whom they could share everything. But now most people say they have about two. Likewise, Brooks explains, “In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.”

Opinions vary about the role of social media in changing our habits and our interactions with others. If you own a smartphone as nearly 2/3s of Americans and close to 2 billion people worldwide do, it probably won’t surprise you that a British study found we check our phones on average 221 times a day. I know that my habits have changed since I started using an iPhone two years ago. Now when I find myself alone at a restaurant I scroll through my email, read the news online and check Facebook. In the past I might have brought a book with me to read or glanced around the room and watched other diners eating their meals or even focused on what I was eating. When my husband and I watch television, if I find my attention wandering from what is playing on the TV screen, I pick up my smartphone and play Words With Friends with two of my friends who also play the game. This irritates my husband and I have made an effort to do it less often.

Now Words With Friends does let me interact with two close friends who I also make an effort to see in real time as often as possible. But I am aware that I have become more easily bored and with a smartphone always near, I tend to check what’s happening in the world throughout the day. Has this made me less interested in being with real people? Has it made me less likely to get together with friends? No. But I do worry about younger people who may not have cemented those tight friendships yet that make you want to pick up the phone and chat with your BFF or make a date to get together for lunch.

But perhaps technology is having other impacts on me that I don’t recognize. An article at The Conversation called “Virtual Distance: Technology is Rewriting the Rulebook for Human Interaction” by Karen Sobel-Lojeski and Martin Westwell explains that, “Virtual distance is a psychological and emotional sense of detachment that accumulates little by little, at the sub-conscious or unconscious level, as people trade-off time interacting with each other for time spent ‘screen skating’ (swiping, swishing, pinching, tapping, and so on).” This has unintended consequences. People can become distrustful of one another and be less likely to exhibit helping behaviors.

While I don’t think that has happened to me yet, I am aware that the additional time I spend on a screen means less time for other activities, even if it’s just staring into space, lost in thought. I know I have to pay attention to this, especially since technology keeps evolving and finding new and engaging ways to occupy our attention.

So I’m making a commitment to more people time and less screen time, more blog writing and less blog reading, more creative engagement and less picking up my iPhone if I’m bored, and more time being with a friend and less time playing Words With Friends. Well, I’m not so sure about that last pledge. I really do like playing Words With Friends.




The article

A Tough Baby Boomer Conversation

When I was in my twenties, my friend Ken and I would sometimes talk about the wisdom of living in a shared community when we were older. While it was fine for us to live with our mates in our own homes now, we thought that later, when we were seniors, a different arrangement might work better. We envisioned that a group of us could buy land together, build small cottages for each couple and also have a communal living space where meals were prepared and eaten and where we could find companionship with old friends. Medical and maintenance expenses could be shared. It would be the best of all worlds: privacy plus community, independence plus assistance.

Now that I’m a senior – which I have a really hard time believing – I still think that communal model has merits, but I realize I’m no longer the one to make it happen. My friend Ken, who was widowed 12 years ago, recently sold his long-time home and is looking for another place to live with a lovely woman he’s been seeing. He’s been looking at planned communities, so I guess our long-ago dreams aren’t so far from his mind.

My husband and I have spent some gut wrenching conversations thinking about our future too. We now have our own home that requires a fair amount of upkeep. The house was built somewhere around 1890 and something always needs fixing. Over the years we’ve planted elaborate gardens that we’ve lovingly tended, but I know that the time will come when turning over the soil, planting, watering, fertilizing and weeding will not be doable for arthritic hands and knees or aching backs. We already have someone else cut the grass in the summer, pick up the leaves in the fall and plow when the snowstorms hit.

We are part of the baby boom generation that has a hard time accepting we won’t be young forever. And, therefore, trying to have a conversation about what we should do when the time comes for us to not do what we’ve been doing for so long is really hard. We still feel good and don’t really want to dwell on the tougher times that could be ahead when we may have to move from our cherished home.

A relative recently told me he planned to put a deposit down on an assisted living place. For $1000 he reasoned, he could get on the waiting list. If he got called and didn’t want it, he could refuse and put his name back on the list. “It’s an insurance policy,” he said, adding that he hoped he never had to use it.

I like that idea. At least it’s a plan and makes me feel as if I’m not being irresponsible by not doing anything about the future. Although I must admit, the plan that Ken and I tossed around so many years ago appeals to me more. It would have enabled us to be with our friends in our old, old age and not strangers. Of course, that’s only if the friends I’d want to live with were still around. Something you just can’t count on.

The article

What Do Two Friends Laughing Sound Like?

One of the happiest sounds I know is the laughter of two friends – the full-bellied, all-out, uncontrollable variety that brings tears of joy to your eyes. Have you had moments like this? I sure have. I can recall gasping for air when my best friend Madeleine and I were well into a full-blown laughing fit. When she laughed her whole face got into the act. Her eyes crinkled up and her mouth opened wide while her head tilted slightly back. While I don’t have a photo of her with me in full laugh mode I do have one that captured her laughing broadly at something her husband Scott said to her at my wedding to Jonathan.

She’s been gone for 13 years now, but I can still conjure up the sound and sight of her laughing. So when I read about a study on laughter that demonstrated relationship status I was intrigued. The research was conducted by UCLA professor Greg Bryant and 32 global collaborators, including Daniel Fessler, a UCLA professor and Riccardo Fusaroli, an assistant professor in Denmark. The study aimed to find out if listeners to audio clips of two people laughing could distinguish whether they were friends or strangers.

The results showed that 61% of the time listeners could identify the relationship correctly. But the scenario that they were best able to judge was when two women friends were laughing together. They got this right more than 80% of the time. Regardless of the listener’s cultural background, said Bryant, they presumed that co-laughter between women meant they were friends. “People from around the world assume that when two females are laughing together that they are friends,” he added.

The study suggests that laughter between friends is more spontaneous and has greater irregularities in pitch and loudness, and also has faster bursts of sound. That sounds right to me. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can at UCLA’s Newsroom where you can hear two clips of females laughing (one between friends and the other strangers).