There’s Something Very Strange Happening To Modern Friendships

Modern societies are often highly mobile, with people moving around for work, school or just to start afresh.

Modern societies are often highly mobile, with people moving around for work, school or just to start afresh.

People in modern societies tend to move home frequently, which is damaging to the nature of their friendships.

Research finds that moving regularly is linked to thinking that friendships and close social ties are more disposable.

Unfortunately, without strong social ties to friends and family it is harder to feel safe and secure.

Similarly, moving around a lot is also linked to the same attitude of disposability towards objects.

Dr Omri Gillath, one of the book’s authors, said:

“We found a correlation between the way you look at objects and perceive your relationships.

If you move around a lot, you develop attitudes of disposability toward objects, furniture, books, devices — basically whatever merchandise you have at home, your car even.”

Modern societies are often highly mobile, with people moving around for work, school or just to start afresh.

The research found that the more people have moved around the country, the more they tend to have a disposable view of both objects and close social ties.

Dr Gillath said:

“This isn’t a new idea of the United States as a mobile country — for many people here, moving up means moving around.

If you’re willing to move for school or a job, you have a higher chance of being successful.

But we’re saying it also makes things superficial and disposable.

It might be fine to have disposable diapers but not disposable friendships.

If you know you’re moving and develop the idea that everything can be replaced, you won’t develop same strong and deep ties.

We’re suggesting this is a broad phenomenon where we all tend to look at relationships to co-workers, friends and social network members as replaceable.

Even in romantic relationships, when I ask my students what would they do when things get difficult, most of them say they would move on rather than try to work things out, or God forbid, turn to a counselor.”

These kinds of attitudes can be psychologically unhealthy, Gillath thinks:

“Research suggests only deeper high-quality ties provide us with the kind of support we need like love, understanding and respect.

You need these very close ties to feel safe and secure and function properly.

If social ties are seen as disposable, you’re less likely to get what you need from your network, which can negatively affect your mental and physical health as well as your longevity.”

The friendship crisis

There’s little doubt that having friends is tremendously good for people.

Those who invest in their friendships experience greater psychological and physical health, particularly among the elderly (Lu et al., 2021).

Despite this, people find it hard to make friends.

Dr William Chopik, an expert on relationships, said:

“In today’s world there’s a general feeling that we’re in a ‘friendship crisis’ in which people are lonely and want friends but struggle to make them.

We show here that they’re beneficial for nearly everyone, everywhere.

But why are they so hard to form and keep?”

It is likely that one of the many answers is that friends are viewed as disposable.

The book is called “Adult Attachment: A Concise Introduction to Theory and Research” (Gillath et al., 2016).

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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.