The Wikipedia article on Friendship quotes the following statement by Patricia M Sias and Heidi Bartoo: “Friendship network is a behavioral vaccine that protects health and mental health”. They say that good friends encourage their friends to lead more healthy lifestyles, to seek help and access services, when needed, to enhance their friend’s coping skills in dealing with illness and other health problems and/or actually affect physiological pathways that are protective of health.
However, recently I noticed that the number of people I can call as close friends or soul mates have decreased. To check whether my observation is true, I asked some people I know about how they feel about it and not surprisingly they came up with the same answer. It was an indication that friendship was on the decline. I needed data to corroborate this and went through the Internet reading many articles some of which I have quoted at the end of this post.
Based on those links, the following could be reasons for this decline:
- Dependence on family as a safety net
- Dependence on a partner or spouse
- Psychological and physiological regression
- Attitude towards sexuality; especially homosexuality
- Advent of the digital age which increased the hours spent on computers and internet
- Patterns in the corporate work culture which increased the time spent at the workplace
- Path dependency causing behavior to follow paths of countless decisions
- Attitude towards atheism?
- Intolerance and misunderstandings
- Other miscellaneous reasons
These are not my opinions but I think my own views would fall into any of these. Friendship in my opinion has come down to the state of people being just acquaintances. And in the years to come, it is going to get worse. As Prof. Dawkins said: “People are remarkably intolerant”. And this remarkable intolerance is the byproduct of a rat race for which we ourselves are responsible. I don’t think social networking is doing anything other than being a medium of keeping people “in-touch”. And this “in-touch” which I define as “Internet-Touch” is not going to build any strong relation beyond casual acquaintances.
I do have a huge network of friends but how many will ever bother to come and see me if I am bedridden leaving all the others things aside? How many will I visit if I know that they are bedridden? The answer is close to zero! Recently I attended a marriage of one my college mates and I could feel the discomfort among my old friends who gathered there. None of them seemed to be happy that they got a chance for a get together and I did not have a clue why. May be they left their minds in their offices and came just for the heck of it.
According to C S Lewis, historically, friendship seemed to be the the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends’. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describe as ‘friendships’, show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that ‘Philía’ which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that ‘Amicitia’ on which Cicero wrote a book.
As I mentioned before, one of the reasons why we stay healthy is our relationships with others. If we tend to become loners because we belong to a “modern society” where “individuality” is more important or “cool”, well I am afraid my friends, we are doomed. I cannot help thinking that we are heading towards creating a society where nobody would bother to use the word friend since it would have lost its meaning by then.
Any positive and negative comments are welcome.
Wikipedia on Friendship
Dr. Henning Bech
Friendship under threat