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Our Darth Vader: The Friendship Crisis

All good stories have a bad guy — ours is the friendship crisis.

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All good stories have a bad guy — ours is the friendship crisis.

Unlike Darth Vader, Sauron and the Joker, our villain is not imaginary. But he is stealthy and he’s crept under the radar for too long. Today, we’re giving him a name, calling him out, and leading a charge to take him down.

Yes – we know this post is a bit of a downer — bad guys tend to be. But stick with us. Once we know what we’re fighting, we’ll dig into all the powerful things we’re fighting for… happiness, love, security, health, joy and meaning.

But first, more about our villain. Meet the friendship crisis.

People Are Lonelier Than Ever

People are lonelier than ever. The average American adult reports having only one real friend [1]. Paradoxically, in an age of Facebook and always-on connections, a growing body of science is proving what we already feel deep in our gut: we’re lonely and isolated. The way many of us use the Internet is making the crisis worse.

  • Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a research tool developed for measuring loneliness, in 2010 researchers found that 35 percent of adults older than 45 were chronically lonely, as opposed to 20 percent of a similar group a decade earlier [2].

  • In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one with whom to discuss important matters, and 15 percent said they had only one good friend. By 2004, 25 percent reported having no one to talk to and 20 percent had only one confidant [2].

  • Roughly 20 percent of Americans – about 60 million people – report being unhappy with their lives because of loneliness [2].

  • When asked what makes life meaningful, Americans mention friends more frequently than family, religious faith and occupational success. Yet we spend only 4% of our time with friends [3].

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The numbers have it. We are shying away from something essentially human — deep meaningful relationships. But why?

Being A Great Friend Isn’t Rocket Science

At Lifeboat we believe meaningful friendship takes purpose, effort, time, uncertainty, risk and skill. Being a great friend isn’t rocket science, but it’s not something we’re taught.

Further, for many people technology is providing a convenient placeholder – a way to avoid the challenges of relationships, while still feeling connected. We’ve replaced sharing our thoughts, fears, hopes and vulnerabilities with sharing photos, news articles and funny videos.

In essence, we’re replacing a healthy meal with empty (yet ever so tasty) calories of likes and comments and we’re wondering why we’re still hungry.

It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

But despite the fast food friend crisis, it’s not all doom and gloom. Social scientists are showing that in order to experience the joys of friendship –including health, well-being and happiness – we must focus on quality relationships, not quantity; depth instead of breadth.

Lifeboat is this exploration – a revolutionary rediscovery of what it means to be a purposeful friend.

We hope you’ll be a part of our work experimenting with solutions to the friendship crisis – so that we can take down this friend trend and be happier and more satisfied because of it.

It’s simple idea. But not small. Will you join us?

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References

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  1. McPherson M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears M. (2006). Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades. American Sociological Review, 71: 353.
  2. Marche, S. (May 2012). Is Facebook making us lonely? The Atlantic.
  3. Fehr, B. (1996). Friendship processes. Sage Publications.