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Friday, June 23, 2006

Sprawl and Isolation

Posted by on June 23 at 13:17 PM

People are lonelier than ever, a new report, titled “Social Isolation in America,” finds, with fewer close friends (two, on average) and confidants on “important matters” (none, according to one in four) than ever before.

Sightline’s Eric de Place has an interesting theory about why: low-density suburban sprawl, which de Place says “is correlated with (and probably causes) a significant degree of social isolation and fragmentation. And that lonliness has measurable impacts not only on mental health, but on physical health too.”

Check out le Place’s post, including links to the report and studies linking sprawl and isolation, here.

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Do not concur. It's happening here in the city as well, right before my eyes. This is not a location phenomenon, but a sociocultural phenomenon. People freeze each other out more than ever before.

Noting the irony as I type this, I believe the internet is responsible.

Lets not forget the Seattle n'Ice factor.

Time to firebomb the suburbs and declare all of Seattle a Fremont fun zone!

Plus, it will save us energy consumption.

I agree with Gomez. It's not necessarily sprawl but time. As a society, we now focus on our private lives (individualism) and public resources (things that we get with no obligation to maintain or necessity to interact), but community is dying.

I'd like to chat more, but gotta get back to work...

Folks are also staying home watching their 5000 TV channels with their $5000 entertainment systems. You're right about the Internet. More people are glued to their computers shopping
and socializing online. It makes the people more interested in Britney Spear's life than their own families' or their next-door neighbors'lives.

I believe this kind of isolation is largely self-imposed. Too many iPods, too many ears plugged with headphones on the busses, walking down the streets, etc etc. nobody interacting with eachother, nobody creating relationships with their community and neighbors...

You know what would help end loneliness is if more people went to muppet movies. Muppets are uniters, not dividers.

On a more on-topic note, some days as I walk down 15th, five or six people will say hello or wave. Living in a population-dense area (and leaving cyberspace occasionally) does have its advantages.

And now, following my own advice, I'm going to the park.

Michael, I think the problem isn't so much people not being polite, waving and saying hello as it is getting people to go beyond that, engage in conversation, hang out and make friends. It's easy to find polite people in Seattle, but much harder to make friends and get to know people.

Well, my girlfriend is carpooling with her son to pick me up after work (I walked) and take my son (he walked to/from first aid training) and I to go around Greenlake.

Net impact - four people socializing, getting exercise, only one car between them, then having dinner in public.

It's a nice day - go get some exercise and be friendly to people!

I agree about muppet movies, although Foamy the Squirrel is pretty good too.

My fave muppet movie is Muppet Treasure Island ...

it seems to be affecting dating trends too, as in too many peeps i know are always single as a result of this phenom. and trying to use cyper aves of dating seems to make one far more removed than more connected. on the other hand, i have "confidants" all over the globe i can call up or email when i need a good chat, and ironically, not a whole lot of local friends to bitch to locally. is it me or the ipodpeople?

Nah, I've had a number of cyberdates that led to lots of sex, but there's nothing like the old attractive vibe at a bar, workplace, and/or while outdoors to really get you someone that really works for you (in terms of turning you on).

Don't forget the cellphone. Why talk to strangers when you can call a chum up?

Also, I don't think we feel like we share any kind of common culture anymore.

So unless you're in a tightly knit, easily recognizable subculture, you don't know what to say to each other.

We're becoming a country of highly diverse strangers.

Hey - maybe that's why it's The Stranger!

You inadvertently touched on a big part of the problem, Will. You've got a tight-knit, built in group to socialize with. Many people do. They don't want to talk to outsiders, strangers, because they've already got people to talk with. Outsiders get shut out because when they talk to people that already have a group of friends, they get the cold shoulder once they try to take it beyond polite convo.

Or maybe not so much a common culture, as a common sense of purpose - common objectives we need to make friends with each other to realize.

Instead, especially in the city, and especially in a relatively childless on like Seattle, we tend to withdraw into the comfort of monogamous relationships - and then it's very hard to make friends, since that might provoke jealousy or at least take time away from the main relationship.

The suburbs, in contrast, are very friendly places - families up and down the block all know each other, have barbecues, look after each other's kids, etc.

It's the city that's the locus of alienation. Always has been, always will be.

As much as I hate the suburbs, I don't think they are causing this problem. It's much lonlier to live in a secure apartment building than a single-family neighborhood where you actually have a little breathing room. Those extra 6 feet make a difference.

How many apartment dwellers know their immediate neighbors? Not many. They are literally too close for comfort.

"The suburbs, in contrast, are very friendly places - families up and down the block all know each other, have barbecues, look after each other's kids, etc."

What Pleasantville-type neighborhood do you live in. I was born and raised in an assortment of surbia's across this land and never knew one so united.

Yes, it depends on where you live and who you live around. In my parents neighborhood, a run-down trashhole in Las Vegas, only in the last few years did they finally meet a neighboring family they felt comfortable consorting with. Maybe that's because all our previous neighbors were drug addicts, drug dealers, wife beaters, violent surly types etc.

Meanwhile, I have also noticed the too-close-for-comfort effect in apartments, but just recently I had pretty friendly neighbors. Last holiday season, I was packing to fly to see my family, and the neighbors, who were throwing a potluck, knocked and invited me over. Had I not had to finish packing up, get to bed and wake up at 5 am the next day to get to SeaTac, I would've obliged.

Meanwhile, while living with my sister and others in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, we maybe spoke with our neighbors 2-3 times in the 2+ years I lived there.

And in my other apartment living, I've lived in places where I've never once seen nor spoken with my neighbors.

It does depend on who you're around, rather than where you're located.

Um... that 1st sentence should read, "Yes, it depends not on where you live but who you live around."

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