Did you know that the question at the top of our page today is not a casual matter? It might be a key to your health. And, the question is directly related to values. That’s why I’m asking you to spend just a moment telling me your reactions to ideas raised by Christine Gloss, who wrote a three-part series last week on ReadTheSpirit.
You can click on our Comment link above — or send me a quick Email if that’s easier for you.
Here’s what sparked my own series of articles this week: I avidly read Christine’s stories on our sister Web site. If you haven’t read her stories, I urge you to do so. Christine writes with openness and conviction about what I call the “flipside” of values: our social connections.
Why are values and social connections flipsides?
It’s because these are two ways we can feel we are members of the same community, same nation, or even the same world. We feel common membership when we share the same values, the same guiding principles in life. When we don’t feel we share values, we perceive a crisis of values. I wrote about this in my book, “America’s Crisis of Values.” The second way we feel this common membership is when we are integrated in the web of affiliations and relationships that form the fabric of society.
The best situation is when people feel both forms of connection—shared values and integrated social networks. The question of shared values is open. Answering it is one of the prime motivations behind OurValues.org and our project at the University of Michigan to create a barometer of American values.
But the evidence of disintegrating social networks is overwhelming. For example, Christine tells us that she lives in a single-person household, and cites statistics from the U.S. Census that show that households like hers already outnumber traditional nuclear families.
The trend is for more single-person households.
Consider another important indicator of social isolation: Fewer Americans today say they have “close confidants” compared to twenty years ago. According to a study published in the American Sociological Review, 25% of Americans say that don’t discuss important matters with anyone. Twenty years ago, only 10% reported the same social isolation. The average number of close confidants shrank by one person in twenty years, down from three to two. But the most common answer today is zero. (This week’s Quick Poll is adapted from the one used in this study.)
Social isolation is harmful to physical and mental health, happiness, and well-being. Those who are isolated die earlier than those who are socially connected. And, those who are isolated are less likely to feel they share values with others.
But we can improve the situation. As Christine says in the title of her first post, “In a World of Disconnected Lives, Our Challenge is Connecting Everyday.”
One way to connect, she says, is to turn “everyday activities into generative moments.” I couldn’t agree more. This week, I will build on her advice, talking about the idea of “human moments” and “high-quality connections.”
PLEASE, join this very important discussion. Add your Comments via the link above, which shares your thoughts with other readers. Or, if you’ve only got a moment and prefer Email — drop us a quick line that way.