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 Post subject: Social Isolation Growing in US, Study Finds
PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:50 am 
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Social isolation growing in U.S., study finds
Many Americans have 'less of a safety net of close friends and confidants'

Updated: 4:12 a.m. ET June 23, 2006

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. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

"That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."

No one to turn to

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, Smith-Lovin said.

"We know these close ties are what people depend on in bad times," she said. "We're not saying people are completely isolated. They may have 600 friends on Facebook.com [a popular networking Web site] and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important."

The new research is based on a high-quality random survey of nearly 1,500 Americans. Telephone surveys miss people who are not home, but the General Social Survey, funded by the National Science Foundation, has a high response rate and conducts detailed face-to-face interviews, in which respondents are pressed to confirm they mean what they say.

Whereas nearly three-quarters of people in 1985 reported they had a friend in whom they could confide, only half in 2004 said they could count on such support. The number of people who said they counted a neighbor as a confidant dropped by more than half, from about 19 percent to about 8 percent.

The results, being published today in the American Sociological Review, took researchers by surprise because they had not expected to see such a steep decline in close social ties.

Smith-Lovin said increased professional responsibilities, including working two or more jobs to make ends meet, and long commutes leave many people too exhausted to seek social -- as well as family -- connections: "Maybe sitting around watching 'Desperate Housewives' . . . is what counts for family interaction."

Television blamed

Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard and the author of "Bowling Alone," a book about increasing social isolation in the United States, said the new study supports what he has been saying for years to skeptical audiences in the academy.

"For most of the 20th century, Americans were becoming more connected with family and friends, and there was more giving of blood and money, and all of those trend lines turn sharply in the middle '60s and have gone in the other direction ever since," he said.

Americans go on 60 percent fewer picnics today and families eat dinner together 40 percent less often compared with 1965, he said. They are less likely to meet at clubs or go bowling in groups. Putnam has estimated that every 10-minute increase in commutes makes it 10 percent less likely that people will establish and maintain close social ties.

Television is a big part of the problem, he contends. Whereas 5 percent of U.S. households in 1950 owned television sets, 95 percent did a decade later.

But University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman questioned whether the study's focus on intimate ties means that social ties in general are fraying. He said people's overall ties are actually growing, compared with previous decades, thanks in part to the Internet. Wellman has calculated that the average person today has about 250 ties with friends and relatives.

Wellman praised the quality of the new study and said its results are surprising, but he said it does not address how core ties change in the context of other relationships.

"I don't see this as the end of the world but part of a larger puzzle," he said. "My guess is people only have so much energy, and right now they are switching around a number of networks. . . . We are getting a division of labor in relationships. Some people give emotional aid, some people give financial aid."

Putnam and Smith-Lovin said Americans may be well advised to consciously build more relationships. But they also said social institutions and social-policy makers need to pay more attention.

"The current structure of workplace regulations assumes everyone works from 9 to 5, five days a week," Putnam said. "If we gave people much more flexibility in their work life, they would use that time to spend more time with their aging mom or best friend."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13493733/

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:05 pm 
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In the end it all comes back to caring and sharing, something our pedagogic individualised competitive capitalist nature stops us from doing anymore.

Today on TUC radio there was an excellent lecture broken up into various parts, including-

Quote:
PART ONE
HOW THE FREE MARKET KILLED NEW ORLEANS and
RIGHT WING JUDICIAL ACTIVISM

How the Free Market Killed New Orleans
Parenti explains how the free market system was instrumental in the destruction of New Orleans and the deaths of so many residents – and ultimately in the total mismanagement of the rescue operations.

Right Wing Judicial Activism
In his commentary on Right Wing Judicial Activism Parenti proves how right-wing judicial activists – from the Civil War to now – have stretched the constitution in matters of slavery, segregation, child labor, the first amendment, and the awarding of the presidency to George W. Bush.

PART TWO
GOVERNMENT BY GIVEAWAY and
GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN VENEZUELA

Government by Giveaway
Parenti's commentary on Government by Giveaway was written in response to the cuts by the Bush administration of $42 billion from the human services budget. Parenti assembles a long list of government handouts to Corporate America, including tax cuts for corporations and the superrich, hidden and not so hidden subsidies to transnational corporations, allowing big business to exploit the nation's oil, coal and mineral reserves on public land for a pittance, tariff protections and trade supports, loopholes for agribusiness and much more. In the end it becomes obvious that, compared to corporate America, ordinary working Americans get the least support while carrying the heaviest financial burden.

Good Things are Happening in Venezuela
Parenti returned from Venezuela with an inspiring and long list of “good things” that are happening there - from education, health care, indigenous rights, worker and farming cooperatives, and resistance to neo-liberal plans for privatization of the oil industry.

With roots in a working class Italian neighborhood in New York and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, Michael Parenti has become an internationally known lecturer. He is the author of nineteen books. The Assassination of Julius Caesar, The Culture Struggle, and Superpariotism are the most recent ones.
This echo's what you are describing pretty much and his observations about Venezuela are right on topic, showing what a heartless government we have. Please listen to these this weekend and take notes on them and lets discuss these issues next week.

http://www.tucradio.org/0621parenticommentone.mp3
http://www.tucradio.org/0628parenticommenttwo.mp3

This whole thing seems to support your comments in your post, and some of the things they do should make us wonder how we let them get away with their scrooge story. it seems pretty obvious that they want us to hate socialism and communism because they are so dependant on its existence to make sure we are there to give them support for their communist ideals. Meanwhile our demands for sharing and caring are ignored and slashed, while the right and libertarians cry about the social safety net as wasteful and illegal, while the government robs us blind and gives their welfare to the corporations and military.

This is what one means by systemic oppression- it is so widespread and obscured that you can't put your finger on it- but it is pushing down on you anyway.

This should make you sick, so keep a barf bag handy.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:54 am 
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I wholeheartedly agree with both posts. I would change one thing--we are not supporting the military so much as the military industrial complex, the very thing Eisenhower warned us against.

It is the military industrial complex that sucks up those tax dollars and puts them into the pockets of people like George H W Bush and his ilk. And that appears to be the only place Rs want tax money to go.


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