Apparently we do.  In 2004, Americans had 2.08 close friends whereas in 1985, we had 2.94 close friends.  Alarmingly (to me at least), 80% of us now only talk to family members about important matters compared to only 57% two decades ago.  I almost never talk to my family about important stuff and I definitely over-my-cold-dead-body would never ever in a million years talk to the in-laws about important matters (nor will I ever let my husband).  Why do we have so few friends with whom we can share our most intimate thoughts and fears?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe because, in this society, we’ve become more selfish and would rather watch out for ourselves than for others?  That’s the thing that I’ve seen with those pesky college kids who run rampant in this college town—an overwhelming selfish we-own-and-rule-the-world-everyone-exists-to-serve-us attitude that I just can’t stand.  Then there are the people who think their friends are their personal servants.  Yes, I’m talking about you, mother-in-law.  She couldn’t pay me to be her friend because being her friend seriously equals being her bitch.  Or maybe because kids these days want to act like they’re married even at the tender age of 19.  Yes, I’m talking about you, not-so-dear brother-in-law.  Who needs friends when I can confide in my super fugly super psycho girlfriend?  Oh wait, I now have no friends because my super fugly super psycho girlfriend made me get rid of them all because they can clearly see that she’s super fugly and super psycho and she just can’t have them telling me that now, can she?  Or she just scared them off with her super fugliness.  Whatever the reason, the study author thinks that this decrease in confidants could spell trouble for society because it leaves us with a smaller safety net and leads to less engagement in issues that affect society as whole—Iraq, anyone?

I myself don’t even have 2.04 close friends, but that’s because I’m an INTP who doesn’t get out much and whose inner world amuses her more than practically any human being can.  And I don’t feel that I need 2.04 close friends to be okay.  I don’t need a safety net.  And I’m feisty enough to stand up for what I believe in when it matters to me—I don’t need to have friends to make me want to be involved in things that I care about.  And I don’t think that everyone else has to either.  Maybe it’s better that we have fewer friends.  Fewer people telling us what to do.  Fewer people who think they know what’s best for us.  And maybe, just maybe, then we’ll learn to rely on ourselves and look inside instead of looking to other people for the answers.  Ah, but that’s just me.  When I really think about it, this study says that people don’t rely as much on friends for answers but rather on family, which means that people still rely on someone for answers and not themselves.  So is this a step in my direction?  Absolutely not.  Switching dependencies does not equal independence—it’s just dependence on someone else.  Besides, what is it about family members as confidants that makes us not want to better society as opposed to non-related-to-us people as confidants?

Are friends good for talking to about inane things and getting drunk with?  Of course!  Relying on friends to help us make difficult decisions?  I don’t know—I guess it depends on how much weight their input carries.  What I’ve been seeing lately that disturbs me are the people who cannot think for themselves—the people who freak out when faced with making a decision without first asking someone else, be it their mom, girlfriend, or some random guy on the street.  People are over-relying on other people for things that they should be capable of themselves if they had spent any time at all on their own personal growth and development.  And when these people run out of people to rely on, they can’t function and they lash out, grasping desperately for anyone they can rely on because they don’t know how to rely on themselves (e.g., mother-in-law using her kids/friends as servants).  Really, how is this any good for society?

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