What are your relationships worth, in dollars?

19 11 2012

Found this fantastic and very interesting article this morning, by Eric Barker, author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Want to improve your happiness and life satisfaction? Then check these stats out…

–          Quinton

Having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in terms of life satisfaction:

There is substantial evidence in the psychology and sociology literature that social relationships promote happiness for the individual. This paper explores the use of shadow pricing method to estimate the monetary values of the satisfaction with life gained by an increase in the frequency of interaction with friends, relatives, and neighbours. Using the British Household Panel Survey, an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

A happy marriage is worth $105,000 a year: economists have been able to show using happiness surveys that marriage (compared to being single) is worth around £70,000 (or $105,000) a year for a representative person in Great Britain.

Separation, on the other hand, is equivalent to around minus £170,000 (or $255,000) a year (see Clark and Oswald, 2002).

Seeing friends and family regularly is worth $97,265: So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

By comparison, your health is worth $463,170: Improvement in health has one of the largest effects on life satisfaction; a move from having a very poor health to having an excellent health is worth around an extra £300,000 a year.

Unemployment takes a big happiness toll. You’d need as much as an extra $114,248 a year to make up for the life satisfaction you lose: There is a large psychic cost associated with joblessness. The cross-sectional estimates suggest that a pay package around £66,000 to £74,000 a year is required to compensate for being unemployed (compared to being employed full-time).

Divorce seems like a bargain, costing the equivalent of only $34,000 a year. Why so low? By the time people get the divorce they are happy to be moving on with their lives: This finding is consistent with the recent conclusion made by Gardner and Oswald (2006) that divorced couples tend to gain happiness from the dissolution of their marriage.

Death of a spouse, on the other hand, is equivalent to a drop in income of around $308,780 a year.

By comparison, your life is worth about $6 million to $9 million dollars, according to various government agencies:

–          $9.1 million (Environmental Protection Agency)

–          $7.9 million (Food and Drug Administration)

–          $6 million (Transportation Department)

–          $7 million (median value for prime aged workers)

What’s the best bet? Agreeing with Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert, more time with friends and family, say the researchers: By allowing unobserved individual fixed effects to be factored out from the life satisfaction equation, an increase in the level of social interaction with friends and relatives is estimated to be worth up to an extra £85,000 a year. In terms of statistical significance, this is strikingly large. The estimated figure is even larger than that of getting married (which is worth approximately £50,000). It can compensate for nearly two-third in the loss of the happiness from going through a separation (minus £139,000) or unemployment (minus £143,000). It is also roughly nine times larger than the average real household income per capita in the dataset, which is around £9,800 a year. So if you want to play real life Monopoly (Life value = $6-9million):

–          Health: +$463,170

–          Better social life: +$131,232

–          Marriage: +$105,000

–          Seeing friends and family regularly: +$97,265

–          Divorce: -$34,000

–          Unemployment: -$114,248

–          Separation: -$255,000

–          Death of a spouse: -$308,780





Fame without the right Foundation

29 03 2012

“Did you hear about the story where 11,000 children gathered in a park in Manila to brush their teeth simultaneously in an attempt to make it into the Guinness book of World Records?

“How about a man trying to watch TV continuously for 60+ hours? The story made it to the home page of CNN.

“I can find hundreds of examples of people trying to do ridiculous things to become famous. The media supports them very well too. Hundreds and thousands of people follow such stories, spread them, follow ongoing conversations regarding them and ultimately creating a vicious cycle of more people wanting such fame.

“What we need is more people who are getting famous for doing things that will leave the world to be a better place.”

– Rajesh Setty, Entrepreneur, Author & Speaker





Recognising your Sphere of Influence

28 10 2011

Recent psychology research shows that when you are influential – or at least when you believe you have a decent amount of influence on the people around you – you tend to be happier. Researchers, Drs. Sommer and Bourgeois from Baruch College and Florida Gulf Coast University, clearly showed that the more influential you feel you are, the greater your overall subjective well-being (http://bit.ly/nFTedf). Being influential leads to a sense of worth, feeling in control and a belief that life is purposeful.  Thus, thinking of yourself as influential leads to well-being or happiness. 

 

So if you want to increase your levels of happiness and life satisfaction, how about working on either (1 increasing your influence on those around you, or (2 increasing your awareness of just how much influence you DO already have?

Popular business coach Robin Sharma is famous for saying “we are all leaders, whether we know it or not, and whether we have a title or not”. Most of us do not even begin to comprehend the level of influence we have on the people around us, and the level of impact we can have on our immediate circle of friends / family / loved ones / colleagues, and how that impact can radiate out into the wider world. “Social network” studies have also been conducted on the effects of attitude changes in one person, and how those effects travel from one person to another, often up to three or four ‘degrees of separation’, almost like a virus. So if Johhny becomes very upbeat and positive for a week, his cousin Mark will be more like this too, and pass it on to his girlfriend Nina who also passes it on to her work colleagues, etc.

Given the above, how about trying out a simple exercise. Stop for a moment, get yourself a pen and paper (or a Word document!). Start writing a list of everyone in your ‘inner circle’ – i.e. those you would want at your wedding, those closest to you. And think about their lives, what they are struggling with at the moment, the weaknesses they have, the encouragement they might need. Think about how you could contribute more and better to their lives, and how you could use your closeness to really benefit them. Next, move to your outer circle, and start listing the people who you know but may not be so close to. This will take much longer, so it may be easier to just think about them rather than write them all down. Go through your phone contacts, Facebook friends, and email contacts – that should be a pretty comprehensive overview.

You will probably find you will have 20-40 people in your ‘inner circle’, and 100 – 300 in your outer. How is that for numbers? By sheer volume alone, you can’t deny that no matter who you are or what your position is in life, soceity, the world, YOU HAVE INFLUENCE. If you dramatically changed your behaviour, it is GUARANTEED to have an impact and an influence on the world around you. Everyone has a certain degree of influence – and remember, influence is not all about being able to tell people what to do. It’s about the living reality that if you change your behaviour, or attitude, other people NOTICE and will be affected, whether they want to be or not.

Think about how much influence you have. What potential you have! With great power comes great responsibility. Make a decision today to become more aware, and more proactive, in the way you live and operate in relation to the people around you. You might just be surprised by the effect you can have on your world – and the increased levels of satisfaction, purpose and meaning you can experience as a result 🙂

– Quinton





3 keys: Happiness in a busy city

26 07 2010

Three pointers to finding happiness amidst the hustle and rush of life in a concrete jungle… taken from an article on Psychology Today. Enjoy.

-Quinton

Happiness Comes from Inside. No class, event or person is ever going to make you happy. The order goes like this: Become happy. Then go out into the world and do what you need to do. You see, the high we get from our senses or material possessions lasts about six minutes. Yep that’s it. Then we’re ready for the Next Big Thing. Sounds crazy, but it is entirely possible to find more happiness sitting alone at home than running around. Get still and secure with your life first, then make decisions about what you want and where you want to be.

Focus on What You Have. My brain used to run the same script every morning, running through everything I didn’t have in my life. Now I realize that what we focus on is exactly what we get. The more I thought about not having love or a dream job, the more stuck I got. When I started waking up with gratitude for everything I did have in my life, more of that grew.

Watch What You Tell Yourself. Every thought and word you say has power. That cynic in you criticizing every situation just created his or her destiny. What we see and what we believe is exactly what we get in life. Even if you have to convince yourself, think positive thoughts and make wishful statements. Using positive affirmations is the best trick.

Living in a busy and anxious city isn’t always a walk in the park. But by looking inward and changing some of your habits and thoughts, it’s possible to live your dream life in the city. No to-do or check list needed!





Technology – Communication or Connection?

28 06 2010

There are tens of thousands of businesses making many millions a year in profits that still haven’t ever heard of twitter, blogs or Facebook. Are they all wrong? Have they missed out or is the joke really on us?

They do business through personal relationships, by delivering great customer service and it’s working for them. They’re more successful than most of those businesses who spend hours pontificating about how others lose out by missing social media and the latest wave. And yet they’re doing business. Great business. Not writing about it. Doing it.

I’m continually amazed by the number of people on Twitter and on blogs, and the growth of people (and brands) on Facebook. But I’m also amazed by how so many of us are spending our time. The echo chamber we’re building is getting larger and louder. More megaphones don’t equal a better dialogue.

We’ve become slaves to our mobile devices and the glow of our screens. It used to be much more simple and, somewhere, simple turned into slow. We walk the streets with our heads down staring into 3-inch screens while the world whisks by doing the same. And yet, we’re convinced we are more connected to each other than ever before.

Multi-tasking has become a badge of honour.

I want to know why.

I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I find myself thinking about them more and more. In between tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates.

**

– Howard Mann – speaker, entrepreneur and author of Your Business Brickyard.





5 Stages of a Relationship

11 06 2010

Read an article on “relationship stages” today by Sarah M. Schultz, an American coach and relationships expert, which was very interesting and made me think.

Quinton

**

Before we get started, you should know that most people experience these stages in this order, and will need to resolve the challenges in each stage before they can move successfully on to the next. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule. But for the most part, you can’t get out of experiencing all of these stages if you want a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Every couple will move through these stages at different speeds, and most people will experience each stage more than once – it is common to fluctuate from one stage to another.

Okay, now that I’ve given you the basic info, let’s dig a little deeper….

Stage 1 – The Romance Stage

This is also known as the Courtship Phase or the Fantasy Stage, and can last anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. This is when you and your partner have just met, and everything is absolutely amazing. You can’t get enough of each other. Neither of you can do any wrong in the eyes of the other… mainly because you’re both still on your best behavior. The focus in this stage is on commonalities – you have so many common interests, you could practically be the same person! You show your partner your absolute best self, and you try to please each other as much as possible. Conflict is seen as “bad” in this stage, and is avoided at all costs. You can’t imagine living without this person, so you begin spending as much time together as possible. This is the stage when our defenses are down the most, which allows you to be open to and fall in love. You and your partner are building an important foundation in this stage, so your relationship can grow. There are biological effects as well. When you’re in this stage, your body is producing enormous amounts of endorphins, which makes you feel unusually happy, positive and excited about everything in your life (this is that “head over heels in love” feeling!). This is the stage most often portrayed in movies and romantic novels, for obvious reasons. Bottom line – you are happier than you’ve ever been, and can’t imagine ever feeling any differently.

Stage 2 – The Disillusionment Stage

This stage is also known as the Familiarization Stage, or the Adjusting to Reality Phase. This is where you begin to realize that your partner is actually a human being (horror of horrors!). You get to know each other more and more, and as a result you start recognizing their various flaws and shortcomings. You see your partner in relaxed situations, and you become more relaxed as well. Since your body cannot possibly continue to produce the same levels of endorphins that it was in the beginning, those feelings of being on top of the world start to decline. Your partner’s little habits aren’t quite as cute as they used to be, but there is still enough goodwill from the Romance Stage that you’re willing to overlook them. This stage can start to trickle into your relationship slowly, as you begin to see your partner for who s/he really is. Or sometimes it happens all of a sudden, when there has been some sort of dishonesty or deceit. This phase can be confusing and discouraging, since you’ve just experienced so much openness and connection in the Romance Stage. However, at this stage, your main job is to learn how to communicate and resolve conflict with this person effectively, which is an important skill if you want your relationship to continue.

Stage 3 – The Power Struggle Stage

This stage is also known as the Disappointment Phase or Distress Stage. As the characteristics from the Disillusionment Phase intensify, they become harder and harder to deal with. You will most likely begin to pull away from each other in this stage. At this point, you both still believe that conflict is a “bad” thing, but you are increasingly aware of your many differences. You fight to draw boundaries in the relationship, and as a result even small annoyances become big issues. This is the stage where you define unacceptable behavior, and most couples have occasional or frequent thoughts of leaving the relationship. More and more often, you start to feel like your partner is self-centered or un-caring, or even worse, that they simply can’t be trusted. Deep resentments begin to build if you’re unable to resolve your issues in a respectful and mutually agreeable way. Many couples get stuck in this stage, because this way of interacting becomes normal in their relationship. This is when it is absolutely necessary to learn to manage your differences effectively – to communicate and work together as a team, even though it’s tempting to believe that your partner’s sole purpose on Earth is to make your life difficult. Not surprisingly, this is the stage most couples are in when they decide to break up or file for divorce. However, if they are able to negotiate all of the landmines during this phase, they’ll move on to….

Stage 4 – The Stability Stage

This is a restful and peaceful time, compared to the last stage. This stage is also known as the Friendship Phase or Reconciliation Stage. Some couples never make it to this stage, but the ones who do find that they have deeper feelings of love, connection and trust with their partner. You now have history together, and most people begin to rely on the predictability of the relationship. As you enter this stage, you begin to realize that your partner isn’t perfect, but your personal differences aren’t quite as threatening as they used to be. You’re able to resolve most of your differences, at least to some extent, and you become more confident in the relationship. Some people feel a sense of loss in this stage as they learn to accept their partner for who they truly are, since this means they have to let go of the fantasy that was established early on in the relationship. But for the most part, the deepening sense of friendship and commitment is a good trade-off for those early feelings of butterflies and excitement. This is also when you begin to re-establish your own outside interests and friendships, which were given up in the Romance Phase. There is some danger that you may begin to drift apart from or become bored with your partner in this phase, so you should try to maintain the connection that was created in the Romance Phase. Overall, this is the stage when you finally begin to feel comfortable and happy with your deepening relationship.

Stage 5 – The Commitment Stage

This stage is also known as the Acceptance Phase, the Transformation Stage, or the Real Love Phase. It is estimated that fewer than 5% of couples actually make it to this stage, according to The Relationship Institute. This is the stage when both couples have a clear notion of who their partner is, faults, foibles and weaknesses galore… yet they make a conscious choice to be with this person in spite of all of those things (and in some cases, because of those things). You are no longer with your partner because you need them, but because you’ve chosen them, which means the level of resentment you felt in the Power Struggle Phase has decreased, if not disappeared. If you’ve made it to this stage, you and your partner are a team. You genuinely love your partner, and you look out for their best interests just as much as you look out for your own. Your partner is your best friend. There are few surprises about your partner’s habits or character in this phase. You’ve collaborated to overcome many challenges together, and have grown to accept and support each other without restriction. Your vision for your relationship is in congruence with who you are and what you both truly want. You have discussed your future together – you have similar life goals, and you feel encouraged to define your relationship further. Many couples decide to make a formal or public commitment to each other in this stage (such as marriage) to demonstrate their intention to continue their relationship. This is the stage in which your relationship becomes a true partnership.

About the author: Sarah M. Schultz, MA, CPC is a certified Personal Development Coach in Park City, UT. Sarah coaches quarter lifers (adults in their 20s and 30s) who want to create meaning and passion in their lives by building lasting committed relationships, creating a fulfilling work/life balance, and managing the stress of major life transitions.




Facebook vs Friends: Losing Ourselves in the Info Age

17 02 2010

Excerpt from “The End of Solitude”, a paper by William Deresiewicz,  associate professor of English at Yale University.

Originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington, D.C

With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook’s very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they’re not in the same place, or, rather, they’re not my friends. They’re simulacra of my friends, little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.

I remember realizing a few years ago that most of the members of what I thought of as my “circle” didn’t actually know one another. One I’d met in graduate school, another at a job, one in Boston, another in Brooklyn, one lived in Minneapolis now, another in Israel, so that I was ultimately able to enumerate some 14 people, none of whom had ever met any of the others. To imagine that they added up to a circle, an embracing and encircling structure, was a belief, I realized, that violated the laws of feeling as well as geometry. They were a set of points, and I was wandering somewhere among them. Facebook seduces us, however, into exactly that illusion, inviting us to believe that by assembling a list, we have conjured a group. Visual juxtaposition creates the mirage of emotional proximity. “It’s like they’re all having a conversation,” a woman I know once said about her Facebook page, full of posts and comments from friends and friends of friends. “Except they’re not.”

Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves, rearranging the tokens of connection like a lonely child playing with dolls. The same path was long ago trodden by community. As the traditional face-to-face community disappeared, we held on to what we had lost—the closeness, the rootedness—by clinging to the word, no matter how much we had to water down its meaning. Now we speak of the Jewish “community” and the medical “community” and the “community” of readers, even though none of them actually is one. What we have, instead of community, is, if we’re lucky, a “sense” of community—the feeling without the structure; a private emotion, not a collective experience. And now friendship, which arose to its present importance as a replacement for community, is going the same way. We have “friends,” just as we belong to “communities.” Scanning my Facebook page gives me, precisely, a “sense” of connection. Not an actual connection, just a sense.

What purpose do all those wall posts and status updates serve? On the first beautiful weekend of spring this year, a friend posted this update from Central Park: “[So-and-so] is in the Park with the rest of the City.” The first question that comes to mind is, if you’re enjoying a beautiful day in the park, why don’t you give your iPhone a rest? But the more important one is, why did you need to tell us that? We have always shared our little private observations and moments of feeling—it’s part of what friendship’s about, part of the way we remain present in one another’s lives—but things are different now. Until a few years ago, you could share your thoughts with only one friend at a time (on the phone, say), or maybe with a small group, later, in person. And when you did, you were talking to specific people, and you tailored what you said, and how you said it, to who they were—their interests, their personalities, most of all, your degree of mutual intimacy. “Reach out and touch someone” meant someone in particular, someone you were actually thinking about. It meant having a conversation. Now we’re just broadcasting our stream of consciousness, live from Central Park, to all 500 of our friends at once, hoping that someone, anyone, will confirm our existence by answering back. We haven’t just stopped talking to our friends as individuals, at such moments, we have stopped thinking of them as individuals. We have turned them into an indiscriminate mass, a kind of audience or faceless public. We address ourselves not to a circle, but to a cloud.

It’s amazing how fast things have changed. Not only don’t we have Wordsworth and Coleridge anymore, we don’t even have Jerry and George. Today, Ross and Chandler would be writing on each other’s walls. Carrie and the girls would be posting status updates, and if they did manage to find the time for lunch, they’d be too busy checking their BlackBerrys to have a real conversation. Sex and Friends went off the air just five years ago, and already we live in a different world. Friendship (like activism) has been smoothly integrated into our new electronic lifestyles. We’re too busy to spare our friends more time than it takes to send a text. We’re too busy, sending texts. And what happens when we do find the time to get together? I asked a woman I know whether her teenage daughters and their friends still have the kind of intense friendships that kids once did. Yes, she said, but they go about them differently. They still stay up talking in their rooms, but they’re also online with three other friends, and texting with another three. Video chatting is more intimate, in theory, than speaking on the phone, but not if you’re doing it with four people at once. And teenagers are just an early version of the rest of us. A study found that one American in four reported having no close confidants, up from one in 10 in 1985. The figures date from 2004, and there’s little doubt that Facebook and texting and all the rest of it have already exacerbated the situation. The more people we know, the lonelier we get.

The new group friendship, already vitiated itself, is cannibalizing our individual friendships as the boundaries between the two blur. The most disturbing thing about Facebook is the extent to which people are willing—are eager—to conduct their private lives in public. “hola cutie-pie! i’m in town on wednesday. lunch?” “Julie, I’m so glad we’re back in touch. xoxox.” “Sorry for not calling, am going through a tough time right now.” Have these people forgotten how to use e-mail, or do they actually prefer to stage the emotional equivalent of a public grope? I can understand “[So-and-so] is in the Park with the rest of the City,” but I am incapable of comprehending this kind of exhibitionism. Perhaps I need to surrender the idea that the value of friendship lies precisely in the space of privacy it creates: not the secrets that two people exchange so much as the unique and inviolate world they build up between them, the spider web of shared discovery they spin out, slowly and carefully, together. There’s something faintly obscene about performing that intimacy in front of everyone you know, as if its real purpose were to show what a deep person you are. Are we really so hungry for validation? So desperate to prove we have friends?

But surely Facebook has its benefits. Long-lost friends can reconnect, far-flung ones can stay in touch. I wonder, though. Having recently moved across the country, I thought that Facebook would help me feel connected to the friends I’d left behind. But now I find the opposite is true. Reading about the mundane details of their lives, a steady stream of trivia and ephemera, leaves me feeling both empty and unpleasantly full, as if I had just binged on junk food, and precisely because it reminds me of the real sustenance, the real knowledge, we exchange by e-mail or phone or face-to-face. And the whole theatrical quality of the business, the sense that my friends are doing their best to impersonate themselves, only makes it worse. The person I read about, I cannot help feeling, is not quite the person I know.

As for getting back in touch with old friends—yes, when they’re people you really love, it’s a miracle. But most of the time, they’re not. They’re someone you knew for a summer in camp, or a midlevel friend from high school. They don’t matter to you as individuals anymore, certainly not the individuals they are now, they matter because they made up the texture of your experience at a certain moment in your life, in conjunction with all the other people you knew. Tear them out of that texture—read about their brats, look at pictures of their vacation—and they mean nothing. Tear out enough of them and you ruin the texture itself, replace a matrix of feeling and memory, the deep subsoil of experience, with a spurious sense of familiarity. Your 16-year-old self knows them. Your 28-year-old self should not know them.

Facebook holds out a utopian possibility: What once was lost will now be found. But the heaven of the past is a promised land destroyed in the reaching. Facebook, here, becomes the anti-madeleine, an eraser of memory. Carlton Fisk has remarked that he’s watched the videotape of his famous World Series home run only a few times, lest it overwrite his own recollection of the event. Proust knew that memory is a skittish creature that peeks from its hole only when it isn’t being sought. Mementos, snapshots, reunions, and now this—all of them modes of amnesia, foes of true remembering. The past should stay in the heart, where it belongs.

Finally, the new social-networking Web sites have falsified our understanding of intimacy itself, and with it, our understanding of ourselves. The absurd idea, bruited about in the media, that a MySpace profile or “25 Random Things About Me” can tell us more about someone than even a good friend might be aware of is based on desiccated notions about what knowing another person means: First, that intimacy is confessional—an idea both peculiarly American and peculiarly young, perhaps because both types of people tend to travel among strangers, and so believe in the instant disgorging of the self as the quickest route to familiarity. Second, that identity is reducible to information: the name of your cat, your favorite Beatle, the stupid thing you did in seventh grade. Third, that it is reducible, in particular, to the kind of information that social-networking Web sites are most interested in eliciting, consumer preferences. Forget that we’re all conducting market research on ourselves. Far worse is that Facebook amplifies our longstanding tendency to see ourselves (“I’m a Skin Bracer man!”) in just those terms. We wear T-shirts that proclaim our brand loyalty, pique ourselves on owning a Mac, and now put up lists of our favorite songs. “15 movies in 15 minutes. Rule: Don’t take too long to think about it.”

So information replaces experience, as it has throughout our culture. But when I think about my friends, what makes them who they are, and why I love them, it is not the names of their siblings that come to mind, or their fear of spiders. It is their qualities of character. This one’s emotional generosity, that one’s moral seriousness, the dark humor of a third. Yet even those are just descriptions, and no more specify the individuals uniquely than to say that one has red hair, another is tall. To understand what they really look like, you would have to see a picture. And to understand who they really are, you would have to hear about the things they’ve done. Character, revealed through action: the two eternal elements of narrative. In order to know people, you have to listen to their stories.

But that is precisely what the Facebook page does not leave room for, or 500 friends, time for. Literally does not leave room for. E-mail, with its rapid-fire etiquette and scrolling format, already trimmed the letter down to a certain acceptable maximum, perhaps a thousand words. Now, with Facebook, the box is shrinking even more, leaving perhaps a third of that length as the conventional limit for a message, far less for a comment. (And we all know the deal on Twitter.) The 10-page missive has gone the way of the buggy whip, soon to be followed, it seems, by the three-hour conversation. Each evolved as a space for telling stories, an act that cannot usefully be accomplished in much less. Posting information is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition. Exchanging stories is like making love: probing, questing, questioning, caressing. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill—and it teaches them all, too.

They call them social-networking sites for a reason. Networking once meant something specific: climbing the jungle gym of professional contacts in order to advance your career. The truth is that Hume and Smith were not completely right. Commercial society did not eliminate the self-interested aspects of making friends and influencing people, it just changed the way we went about it. Now, in the age of the entrepreneurial self, even our closest relationships are being pressed onto this template. A recent book on the sociology of modern science describes a networking event at a West Coast university: “There do not seem to be any singletons—disconsolately lurking at the margins—nor do dyads appear, except fleetingly.” No solitude, no friendship, no space for refusal—the exact contemporary paradigm. At the same time, the author assures us, “face time” is valued in this “community” as a “high-bandwidth interaction,” offering “unusual capacity for interruption, repair, feedback and learning.” Actual human contact, rendered “unusual” and weighed by the values of a systems engineer. We have given our hearts to machines, and now we are turning into machines. The face of friendship in the new century.

Excerpt from “The End of Solitude”, a paper by Socioligist William Deresiewicz.

Originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington, D.C.

Source http://chronicle.com/section/Opinion-Ideas/40/