In a few weeks, we'll celebrate what's been called "the loneliest day of the year," Valentine's Day. The day single people dread.
But single people aren't the only ones who are lonely. According to a Harvard professor who studied 50,000 Americans for the last quarter of the 20th century-many Americans are becoming increasingly lonely.
He found that in 1985, Americans had 3 close friends. 10 years later that had dropped to just 2 close friends. So at that rate (if we extrapolate it) in 10 more years you'll have just 1 close friend.
And in 20 years you'll be sitting in a room by yourself with your dog, listening to country music.
The study found that an evening with the neighbors is down 33%. Many times we don't even know our neighbors. We refer to them as "the yellow car guy." The "annoying dog couple." And the "ugly Christmas lights lady."
We often don't even invite our neighbors over to get to know them. That's why whenever you have an open house. Who comes to look? The neighbors. They've never seen the inside of each other's houses. And if you do invite them over for a meal, they'll probably be very suspicious. We've had this happen before.
They look at you like, "Why do you want to have me over? Are you a Jehovah's Witness? Do you sell Amway? Are you gonna cut me up and put me in the freezer?" "No, we don't want to eat you. We just want to eat with you and get to know you. Be your neighbor."
We live increasingly isolate, lonely lives. You say, "Well what about the internet and all the new technology? Isn't social networking helping us connect? It's helping us connect with a screen. But not necessarily connect with people.
USA Today published an article at the end of the year entitled "2010: The Year When Technology Replaced Talking."
When Gretchen Baxter gets home from work as a New York City book editor, she checks her BlackBerry at the door. "I think we are attached to these devices in a way that is not always positive," says Baxter, who'd rather focus at home on her husband and 12-year-old daughter.
But she's drawn away from her family to her technology.
Americans are connected at unprecedented levels - 93% now use cellphones or wireless devices; 1/3 of those are "smartphones." We are always connected to a device. But we're effectively disconnecting from people in the same room.
That's why, despite all the technology that makes communicating easier than ever, 2010 was the Year We Stopped Talking to One Another. From texting at dinner to posting on Facebook from work or checking e-mail while on a date, the connectivity revolution is creating a lot of divided attention,
And so even though we're more "connected" we feel more and more alone.