We were alerted by Barry Wellman that Sebastian Mallaby would be publishing an Opinion section of the Washington Post on the Social Isolation story. It’s up now (and likely in print too), but Barry and I are both disappointed. Mallaby misses the findings of Barry’s research even though he mentions them. Twenty minutes on the phone with Barry, the top guy on friendship networks living, and Mallaby can’t tell that 15 is greater than 2 or 3 without changing what that means.
No, no! We are not lonely and we do have broader social networks than ever before according to Wellman.
But that doesn’t satisfy Mallaby; once he’s told that we actually have more extensive networks, he switches his stance to tell us that having a more extensive network means that we don’t have connections that are as deep as in the networks-formerly-known-as-lonely-but-now-known-as-deep.
Mallaby’s suggestion form carpools is clever but only slightly extends your social network, only slightly deepens a couple of relationships.
Here’s a more clever suggestion: People should join bike-to-work groups. People who experience more physical exercise and who experience that exercise together are more social and more physicially healthy too. And they use no gas at all!
Or to borrow from a scandalous talk by James Watson, people are happier when they are overweight and well tanned. We all need to get to the beach and participate in that most isolationist of pleasurable activities — reading an engrossing book!