Americans have fewer friends

Was on the BBC World Service talking about friendship, on the back of new research suggesting Americans have, on average, two friends with whom they can confide, down from three a generation ago. It’s online here, about 5 minutes from the end.

Made familiar points about the difficulty of doing statistical work on friendship because people mean such different things by it, though this research has sought to define friendship, as confidence sharing. Though, then again, what counts as confidential varies hugely from person to person, I’d guess.

Also, although the news hook was the ‘problem’ of social media – is Facebook ruining friendship, kinda idea – I suspect that the real issue is contemporary mobility, the way people move from place to place so readily, for work or for a new experience. That’s a challenge for the development of deep friendships simply because knowing someone, and allowing them to know you, takes time. Friends must share salt together, as Aristotle put it, meaning sharing the saltiness of life, not just its passing sweetnesses.