102_0237Ross Douthat wrote recently in The New York Times, Sunday, May 19, 2013, about lonely people and the fact that the suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30% between 1999 and 2010. He quotes a Virginia sociologist, Brad Wilcox, who connects suicide and weakened social ties.

In my opinion, other factors may also be working against these men. Certainly, unemployment in a marginal economy has taken a toll. This is especially true for those who depend on materialism as a philosophy of life. White males have also lost employment positions as women enter the workforce and minorities have increased access to jobs.

Douthat quotes Judith Schulevitz who says that one in three Americans over 45 are chronically lonely, up from just one in five a decade ago. The Internet promises a virtual community to replace the real community, but it’s doubtful that it can replace warm-blooded friends as a source of support in a time of need.

In fact, the Internet may be contributing to this trend.

Megan McBride Kelly, in The Wall Street Journal, Sunday, May 18 – 19, 2013, reports that the average Facebook user has 142 friends. She reviews Aristotle’s definitions of friendship and first one is the need for love. She questions whether tracking people on Facebook leads to love. She guesses that at least 90% of Facebook friendships are those of utility and self-promotion, where we always put our best face forward. Computer games, the Internet and social networks can keep some people on a narcissistic high, it seems to me. These contacts are based on pleasure, but it is pleasure for ourselves and not for the other person.

It’s also easy to neglect authentic friendships when we are so caught up in technological self-pleasure. Aristotle talks of the ultimate form of friendship, which is virtuous, meaning concern for our friends sake — and not just for our own. Ms. Kelly reports that her father and grandfather always told her that the number of such true friends can be counted on one hand over the course of a lifetime.

When the going gets tough, and jobs are scarce,do these depressed folks have real friends and an authentic community  to fall back on?

Continue on my Psychology Today website . . . . http://bit.ly/17ZVBCD