Hello there! We your accessibility team would like to close off this week with an article that speaks directly to the heart when it comes to how technology is taking ahold of our time and life. It is affecting our ability to socialize and we hope you find time to read this article.
Friendships on the decline as pace of life quickens; Canadians have
fewer friends and see them less: research
Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 17, 2009
Our friendship networks are shrinking, a mounting body of evidence suggests,
a social erosion that’s linked to factors ranging from longer work hours to
a population on the move.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the intensity and the number of
face-to-face interactions is decreasing,” says James White, a professor of
sociology at the University of British Columbia.
The pace of life has accelerated, he says, and people work longer and harder
to maintain the same standard of living. At the same time, technology acts
as a “buffer,” Mr. White says, recalling a recent short-haul flight where no
one spoke to their seatmates, but the cabin erupted into one-sided
conversations the second the plane landed and everyone could turn their
Statistics Canada figures indicate the proportion of Canadians reporting
they have at least two friends has dropped across almost all demographics in
recent years. Among the 45-to-64 age group that includes most baby boomers,
for example, about 85 per cent said they had at least a couple of friends in
1990, but that proportion fell to about 82 per cent by 2006.
The two exceptions to the trend are women under 25 and senior men, who
enjoyed the biggest increase in their social stock. In 2006, 74 per cent of
men aged 75 and older said they had two or more friends, up from 68 per cent
Just 33 per cent of Canadians in the largest urban centres say they know all
or some of their neighbours, according to StatsCan, although in small
communities and rural areas that swells to 69 per cent. Just 53 per cent say
that people can generally be trusted, while 43 per cent say “one cannot be
A 2006 study from Duke University and the University of Arizona found the
number of people who have no one with whom they can discuss important
matters nearly doubled in 20 years, to one-quarter of the population. The
mean number of friends with whom people said they could have a
heart-to-heart dropped by almost one-third, to 2.08 in 2004 from 2.94 in
Barry Wellman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, argues
that technology enables people to connect more through informal channels
such as the grassroots mobilization that helped propel Barack Obama into the
White House. If anything, the Internet has encouraged regular contact with a
wider, looser web of acquaintances than before, he says.
“People have somewhat more specialized in their relationships,” Mr. Wellman
says. “The people you rely on for emotional aid are different than the
people you rely on for borrowing a cup of sugar or taking care of you when
In some cases, people are using technology to shore up their real-life
The singles’ social club Meet Market Adventures includes 120,000 members —
two-thirds of them Canadian — in 13 cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa,
Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. Sam Gruszecki, director of
strategic initiatives, says with events ranging from board game tournaments
to rock climbing, the focus is on meeting new friends rather than dating,
and the prime age group is mid-20s to late-40s.
“I think in general, we’re more closed-off as a society,” he says. “We’re
very focused on online interaction. You can spend your workday not talking
to a single person, and I think human nature has a need for being around
people and communicating with people and seeing them.”
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