Jennifer Martikean 

Jennifer Martikean

People Search
If you are living in the United States and feeling lonely, your neighbor probably feels the same way.

In June, researchers released a study that reported that most Americans have fewer close friends than they did in the past. Study participants were asked how many people they had discussed important matters with. In 2004, Americans answered "two." That is a decrease from about two decades ago, when Americans answered "three."

Older generations often bemoan the erosion of friendships and family ties of the younger generation. I sometimes wonder whether every generation in history heard about the good ol' days from their seniors. Sure, there are clear signs of problems increasing in society today. But I can't help but think that maybe some of the evidence of the decline in our society is that we now have more researchers with better surveys to track such things. I digress.

However, it's not hard to understand how a decline in close friends happens. From drive-through windows to the way some developments are designed, it is harder to make and keep friends because so much is conspiring against you.

In McHenry County towns, it can be difficult to meet people and make new friends. Developments are designed with attached garages, so you don't ever have to see your neighbor as you drive up the concrete driveway, park the car in the garage, close the door, and walk directly into the house.

Residents can get dinner from a take-out window 'C again, without leaving the car 'C or run errands at the local strip malls by running into a store, then hopping into the car and driving to the next store. Rather than talking to our neighbors we have TVs and car radios to keep us constantly informed about our world.

In a place like McHenry County, there are lots of new people moving in all the time, so some might think that it is easy to meet people with whom they have lots in common. But it isn't easy to be new.

Our lives disrupt our development of friendships. Most couples live in two-career households. We often work late, work on weekends or have our free time filled with errands and family obligations. Unlike college, there isn't a free night to just hang out for hours at the bar talking with a group of pals.

So, researchers always are quick to tell us that we are more isolated than ever, despite the new technologies of cell phones, e-mail and blogs that are supposed to keep us more connected to our community.

But no one ever tells us how to make and meet new friends. In school, it's easy. You talk to the kids at recess. You fall into a crowd that has similar interests as you, like the football team or the drama club.

So now that we've grown up, is it government's fault for allowing the design of houses to include attached garages? Or is it our fault for perhaps spending too much time in front of the TV, either at the grocery store, restaurant or home?

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