Is The Internet Diluting Friendships?

from the or-just-making-old-studies-obsolete dept

Okay, sure, you may have 50,000 friends on MySpace, but how many would you consider close confidants? A new study is suggesting that the combination of the internet and longer work hours means that Americans have fewer “close” friends. We may know new, interesting and different people from around the globe — but have fewer and fewer really good friends than we did twenty years ago. Of course, as the researchers admit, one reason this could be true is the way the survey was worded. They asked about how often people “discuss” important matters with friends — but admit that many people may not consider emails or instant messages “discussions.”

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Comments on “Is The Internet Diluting Friendships?”

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myspacedoutfamily says:


I have found that I have lost touch with many friends and don’t see them as often, but not due to the internet, more due to moving around and changing jobs and divorce (that was a big one for changing contacts with people)….I have found more people I haven’t talked to since high school and made contact with many old friends through Myspace that I wouldn’t have found otherwise…..I also helped a friend find a child that he hadn’t seen since she was little on the internet because of an ugly divorce……

I don’t think the internet is to blame at all….but I will agree with longer hours, less time, etc…

Alan MadLeese (user link) says:

MySpace and my theory

TD: I have been here before yammering about MySpace and — I know not whether this is ethical to hype one blog while visiting on another — I can’t help but chip in here and say, hey, my name is Alan MacLeese and I have posted thirtysome rants on the Konspiracy Korner blog, a department of the Sounds of Crickers Chirping, and these rants point out that, two-and-a-half months after I posted on Catbird Seat the fact that secret ownership, disgraced West Coast business baddies, created and then peddled in a murky firesale to Rupert Murdoch, the biggest success, social networkwise,on this here planet and put forth two cabin boys, Tom Anderson and Chris DeWOlfe, as fronts and supposed creators of the virally successful site, when in fact these two couldn’t, in my arrogant opinion, found dick. Or Jane. And buried in my rants on two blogs on the Konspiracy Korner corner, is my thought that, rather than joining networks of cretins, the smart AMerican child of the turn of the century would be better advised to retreat to a corner and read a lot of books and purposefully stay away from the pernicious influence of other young cjhildren, most of whom will lead you down the primrose path. The theory then, for the survival of the race, is lthat we encouraqge sullen withdrawals of the young, so they can truly figure out the serious of the shit going on around themk. Except, of course, for the situation here in Hallowell maine, which is. well above the rest of the nation but what can you expect, all the rest of you are from away.

ZA says:

Re: MySpace and my theory

That was 10 minutes of my life I wish I had back. That was probably one of the worse writings I ever had the misfortune of reading. If you choose to use big words, you should make sure you are using them in the correct context.

Alan, your writing is a grammatical train wreck. Personally, I wouldn’t be so proud as to use your real name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MySpace and my theory

I think you need to back away from your computer, go find some of these real ‘friends’ we’re talking about. Some food and sweet lovin’ wouldn’t hurt either. Then, work on your english skillz a bit.

Though, I must agree. I personally have always been a bit detached socially, and not sticking my toes in any of the social drama going on around me, and not caring to, leaves a lot more energy and time to look at the world differently.. through a clearer lens.

Regarding the topic of the thread though.. I’ve got about three core, close friends. I’d of had about the same in 1900, and if I’m still alive I’ll probably have the same in 2100.. assuming they’re all alive too. Everyone else, well, nice to know ’em, but thats it.

Me Me says:

Re: MySpace and my theory

I want some of his drugs. I agree with your truth about the facades to deflect attention from the real agendas. Corporate bastards with smiling faces and fat wallets turning the world into a shopping mall full of people who have been told they are individuals. But wait, they all wear the same brand of clothing, bought with their overpriced credit cards. Anyhow, I’m no longer searching for the truth, just a good fantasy.

I, for one says:

True, but oversimplistic

Complex, and not what it seems on the face of it imho. Perhaps the stats are right, they seem/feel right from what I know about youngsters behaviour here and in the US, but the conclusions are off base I think.

Sociologically there’s a lot of withdrawal going on. People are less trusting of one another. Parents are more fearful and suffocating. Public spaces are more intimidating with security guards, police and cameras everywhere harassing young people. There’s almost a replay of the 1950s “rock n roll” era going on where kids are pariahs in society.

You can’t easily separate cause and effect here, but I think the internet is just filling a gap that is being denied to them in reality. Given the choice most kids would still be out making real friends, but their environment is too hostile for that so they take the poorer substitute.

Taylor says:

Re: True, but oversimplistic

True, but I think the internet also allows people to be more aware of what’s going on in the world, prodives them information about contructive interests and hobbies, and allows them to contact people of any sort, friends, or even strangers. I think the opposite parts of the world can start to understand eachother without even knowing it, just simply by communication, like in forums like this. On the other hand, althought were in a digital age, a lot of people are still computer-illerate. A great precentage of society has refused to become part of the digital age, including those under 21.

j4kk (user link) says:


I think this is very true. Alot of people get so wrapped up in online things that they don’t actually have the gumption to just go out with their real friends. Also I think IM conversations can be useful, but in alot of cases they have seriously f**cked up relationships between people, myself having experienced. The interent is a dangerous thing! 😉


Mr. K. (user link) says:

Needs definition

The definition of “close friend” needs to be clearer. Many people I know I would call a friend, while others acquaintances (people I work with) however if you’re talking about someone who would help me in a time of need at their own expense, or loan me money to make rent or something, that is not many people. Most people are friends only insofar as they get something in return.

Arochone (user link) says:

Quite the opposite for me

I dunno about the rest of the world, by my only close friends, the kinda friend I tell EVERYTHING to (more than I’ll even tell my girlfriend), I know online. I never knew them offline. And that’s a big part of the reason why I trust them. I know who they are, I know where they live (exact address), full name, brothers, sisters, parents…wouldn’t be surprised if I found the mother’s maiden name in my AIM logs somewhere…don’t know it off the top of my head though…lol. Closer than I’ve ever gotten to anyone I knew offline.

I know who they are, I almost always know where they are, I know who they’re with (not just names…I actually know the people), I know everything they do…hell, I know more about what they do than any CIA or NSA spies would ever be able to find.

Sean (user link) says:


It’s really funny when people refer to myspace as ‘friends’. But people may think that the internet is screwing with peoples social life but it really is kind of the opposite. It can improve their social life unlike popular beleif. If you look at things like TeamSpeak or Ventrilo to just name a few, they allow you to talk to people and even search for chat rooms. Yes they may not be friends, but it’s better to have someone to talk to than no one at all.

Also, people can meet people that are just like them and live near them that they normally would not meet, making them even closer friends.

Thanks my two cents.

Lewis says:

Re: Hmm..

True and not true. I can say truthfuly that it does in some way improve ur social life, I have 46 internet friends now at least but most of them live in other countries such as america and canada.

It is also not true because it is unsafe to meet up with people you have never meet before but there are some that I like so much I would travel to them no matter the cost.

Blaise (user link) says:

Different Medium

I find that the internet has enhanced many of my friendships, and has actually been a catalyst for some of my closest friendships (meaning, it was a starting point). I don’t know about friendships which are only on the internet, and never reach a face to face level, but the internet allows the opportunity for no pressure one-on-one conversation where you might not otherwise have the chance. Most encounters we have with people are in a group setting, that is, at least until we become closer to them. But the internet allows for that one-on-one contact on a more regular basis. Also, dialogue through the internet allows for friendships to develop without the same amount of fear of imposing on someone else. Email, IM, Facebook/MySpace (( ew myspace )), phone calls, letters, and your tried-tested-true face-to-face normal-people talk are all different mediums to be used to communicate with other people and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. The internet widens the range of options you have for communication with people. It can be used in a way that may encourage a hermit lifestyle, but I would argue that is a misuse and that the internet is not the problem. The internet, when used for it’s advantages and not to necessarily replace other mediums of conversation, actually provides a wider range of options for social interaction.

I am a fan.

Tommy Holefiller (user link) says:

I believe people are working more and the Internet is making it easier to keep in touch with friends and family. I found many old friends and visa-verse on myspace. I do believe all this tech is making us dumber in some ways. I remember when I was a kid I used to know all my friends phone numbers by heart. little page of paper posted next to the phone, now we have voice command and never see the numbers of our friends and loved ones. God forbid we lose our sacred cell phone. We would be stranded on a noncommutative island!! LOL!!!

Matthew says:

Re: E-harmony? Hell with that.

E-harmony? Hell with that. by dorpus on Jun 24th, 2006 @ 2:54am

I’ve got a profile on there just for fun, and the matches they send are not even close to what I’m looking for. I made it clear I’m a very un-altruistic type, and they just paired me with some liberal activist lawyer. So much for “computerized matching”.

I think this is more of a case of dorpus not knowing dorpus’ self.

Anonymous Coward says:

How many people have met their spouses and best friends online? The strongest “friendship” possible, in my opinion, must be that between husband and wife and now it’s not uncommon for that friendship to have started and developed online. That should say something right there.

I think the problem is that this study’s definition of “close friends” goes back to high school. It used to be that everyone had a small clique, perhaps of 4-5 people, that would do everything together. Others in the school may all be acquaintances, but not even really considered friends. With the internet, however, one may find themselves to be friends with half the school, and maintain a relationship with a much larger body of friends. Yet they may only have one or two “best friends” with whom they truly trust completely.

Is the internet impairing their relationships or taking away from their social needs? You tell me.

MySpacedoutfamily says:

Re: Re:

I did meet my “spouse” on the net…we are not married, but have been living together for nearly 3 years…we met on because he was looking for a roommate to help him out because he was going through a divorce and he is partially disabled and needs daily assistance in chores,etc…i was also going through a divorce and needed a place to live…..he chose another roommate…it was the net that brought us together, we continued to chat online a bit….but it was lunches togethe since we worked near each other..and then drinks after work, then actually dating that created the true relationship…maybe it was just meant to be, but we are both happier than we have ever been and I don’t think we ever would have met if it were not for talking online. I may have seen him in public and not looked twice ..besides I am sort of shy and don’t just walk up to people in public and say…wanna be my friend?

And there are myspace whores and others who only ad thier real friends to thier list…….I myself don’t feel a need to put people I don’t know on my list…only a few local celebs/radio dj’s that I like so i can get thier blog updates, etc.

Just because I communicat with my friends online doesn’t make it my only form of communication though……..I still have a group I hang with..we go to movies, events, out partying etc.

Brian says:

Needs Definition

I have to agree with Mr. K. on this one. I’ve never been near one of the social networking sites in my life but I’ve been online for decades now. My network of acquaintences and friends in the physical world has pretty much remained constant over those decades. In the online world, my network for both has expanded exponentially and I know for a fact that my online friends are far better friends than my physical ones to use the standard of another poster here. When a new computer or $1600 monitor shows up on your doorstep unasked for after a hardware failure or a check for several hundred dollars, again unasked for, similarly shows up, but your physical friends won’t even spring for pizza, what’s your standard of friend? I wouldn’t hesitate doing the same for my online friends around the world but probably would for my own roommate.

What an odd world we live in, neh?

Celes says:

Re: Needs Definition

Personally, Brian, I’d be a little wary of any friend who sent me a new computer or $1600 monitor, even if I *had* asked. I will admit, though, that I’ve probably been subjected to more horror stories about unsolicited gifts than you have, most likely because I’m female.

And, well, I’ve never had a physical friend who wouldn’t spring for pizza if he/she had the cash. The same goes for me.

Andrew Strasser says:

Certainly mine with our Govt. and the Christian Ch

I fel no friendship toward either of those organizations at this point they classify my health records and the studies of my health while lying to me about excorisms…. Great country we live in as they pump enough oil out of the ground to make Revelations happen when the world blows up I’ll be with God and let all these Christians who put their faith in a man be damned to earth.

Cool Cliftop says:

Circle of Friends

As I have aged my circle of friends has shrunk. As a young man in my 20’s had a lots of friends and they meant everything to me. After college, the number started to dwindle, and then with the marriage and kids, career, the number of friends just kept shrinking. I guess it was because I was just not hanging out anymore. In the past few years I have rekindled old friendships through e-mail and the internet. It’s cool, but never as cool as hanging with yer buddies like back in the day!

Alienated says:

My Friends

I disagree, being a highschool student, I think the internet has made social situations worse. I have a group of five very close friends, but I did not meet them online, I met them in person which strengthed our relationship exponentially. The only reason I use the internet is to communicate with the friends I already have. I have tried to make new friends online, but it always feels to impersonal because I cannot trust them; when I talk to my “real” friends online I often say things that I would never say to their face and their online personlaity are completely different form what they really are.

Blitze says:

MySpace Friends

In my opinion people on myspace need to get a life in the first place. They dont have friends they have aquantinces.

MySpace is a huge place for fake friends for “comfort.” Friends online can be great, like brothers or sisters but people that you meet because of your taste in music.. then are “friends” because you both like a band need lives and actual friends.

thats just my 2 cents..

Tashi says:

I’ve met several close friends over the internet that I’ve met face to face, including overseas. It was valuable information from my friends that alerted me of where to go and where not to go what to do and what not to do in foreign countries. A little common sense, obversation and critical thinking goes a long way in evaluating who you decide to be friends with. I find the people who find the internet isolating are those who misrepresent themselves (what they look like, what they do etc.)

Americans (and I am American) have a very bad habit of blaming technology for their societal dysfunctions. Right now, it’s videogames and the internet. Older people like to talk about the good ‘ole days. America was f’ked up in the 50s during Leave It To Beaver’s era and it’s f’ked up now. The sooner people quick looking for the scapegoat and look in the mirror the sooner America can get back to being a great successful experiment. I say that because right now, that experiment is failing.

Noc says:

my take on this

personally i was on the net alot because, in public it wasnt the cameras that offended me, it was for one 12 year old girls hitting on me wearing as little as they could get away with withought being arrested for indecent exposure, i would consider myself a pretty mature person, because any girl who tries to show herself off like that in my opinion is retarted and if you want to be noticed by people who will be your friend, not just stare at you and yell boobs or something. i remember when i started playing games and going in chat rooms and all that, i saw alot of the same stuff, which is why i swore to never have an online relationship, and anyone who did id laugh at, then lo and behold i found the most amazing girl ive ever met on the net, pretty much an exact clone of me but in female form, and right now i moved a good thousand miles to be with her, and for the relationship we have even 8 months later, id never go back, im happier than have ever been, we both still play games, but we also go out all the time and just relax at coffee shops and make fun of people passing by…i might add that from first hand experience i say the most revealing dress ive ever seen completely see through with like dots over the breasts and privates and every time the dress shifted…well lets say i saw much more than i wanted, my and i about died laughing about “is this what the world is coming to??!!” i have lots of friends here and i royally hate myspace, but if you wonder why people isolate into the net, go to a mall and have a 12 year old stripper looking girl say “whats up sugah” and wonder why we hadnt done it sooner, its not the oppression and stuff like that thats happening its us ourselves.

…damn that was a rant, maybe i should start a blog xD

Tom (user link) says:

Not necessary a bad news

What is definition of Friendship?

In an old way, a person talking almost everything to her/his close friend(s). If this close friend happen to have a good knowledge of this topic, then you are lucky, othewise it is very tough to share it with this friend — although a close friend.

I am a IT guy and have a lot of close friends also doing IT. Of course, it is very easy for me to share experience of C++, PHP, JAVA and AJAX with them. But I am interested in Fashion too, then this part of me is very hard to be shared with these close friends 🙂

I think internet is just redefine a lot of things, including friendship.

Just my 2 cents.

Gandalf says:

Americans never had close friends, dont blame the internet. Americans get close friends when they are in highschool, move to college and never see them again, then, they graduate, and whatever friends they get at college, they are lost again, then they move to wherever their work takes them, and loose friends again….how can you have real friendship when you move around every time you are finally settled in?? Dont blame the net for it….

Alan MadLeese (user link) says:


hi td, and i must respond in my run-on way to the righteous and overly incensed critics of my writing style or lack thereof. I would simply tell the carpers that neatness don’t count when you are pissed, and I hav e purposely not worried about such shit in my three solid months of tyring to perform a good thing, inform the public about MySpace, and they hav e been lied to and I am correcting that and I dfon’t givce a shsit for a typo or two and if whomever runs this site doesn’t worry overmuch, perhapsd it’s because this crackhead is tryhing to do something right, which is not all that easy when you are septuagenarian crackhead although in my defense I might also relay to the purists that I have also because been called a sot. So I’ve been working around the clock as a volunteer with a young blogger in Los Angeles for lo these three months and we are about to blow a few holes in the MySpace barge, and what have you grammatical wonders been doing alll that time, reading Strunk and White? Where are you’re scrapsbook, bythe bye????

Lewis says:

I find it easyer to make friends on the internet because they do not have to look at me. People take advantage of me at school so I no longer bother with real friends because I cannont trust them. I am classed as a nerd but I do not mind that because I enjoy learning, but I hate it when I work with friends and they make me do all the work. I feel as if I am a fool for not telling them that I am not happy with this. I now spend most of my life in front of a computer screen. I feel that I cannont tell my parents this because I don’t know how to tell them. I am too shy to make friends with people in person. I can but it is harder to make friends. My friends list on a game I play on the internet holds a max of 50 friends that I can store. I have about 46. If I were to compare that to the list of friends that I have meet in person It would have a difference of 40. I cannont tel my friends that I do not like them any more as they would flip, but I think the only way for me to move forwards is to start again. In a new school with different people. Can someone please tell me any other ways I can move forwards in life with some friends that I can trust as much as I can trust the one’s on the internet?

Please do tell me I would love some advice at the moment another internet friend wouldn’t go a miss.


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