Three or less per week.
That’s how many times 40% of American families have dinner together. However, 88% of American families would like to see the time they spend eating together increase.
In 1985, political scientist Robert Putnam published a book entitled Bowling Alone. The subject? Something he titled ‘social disengagement.’ Instead of stumbling over an interpretation of his words, let’s take it straight from the poli-sci expert’s mouth:
“The most… discomfiting bit of evidence of social disengagement in contemporary America that I have discovered is this: More Americans are bowling today than ever before, but bowling in organized leagues has plummeted in the last decade or so.”
That was in 1995.
Fast forward 25 years and things haven’t gotten better. If anything, they’ve gotten worse.
What Robert Putnam called “social disengagement” – the act of separating oneself from communities – social scientists are now calling the “loneliness epidemic.”
It’s a growing psycho-social trend – particularly among young adults. A recent poll of 1,254 adults found that 27% of Millennials report having ‘no close friends’ and 22% report having ‘no friends at all. Those statistics echo another survey of 20,000 US adults where 47% said they ‘suffered from feelings of loneliness.’
Unsurprisingly, social media plays a negative supporting role here. People who spend a lot of time on social media platforms (considering the average time spent on social media for US adults is two-and-a-half hours per day, that’s most of us) perceive themselves as being much more isolated than they actually are. Additionally, people who have negative experiences on social media are more likely to withdraw from society.
The result of our modern entrapment in social media platforms – and the internet in general – is a vicious cycle: people retreat to social media to avoid their real-life problems, but social media just makes them more depressed, resulting in even further isolation from communities.
Obviously, none of this is a good thing. Loneliness is heavily correlated with mental illness, such as depression. The question remains: what can be done to address this issue?
We need to start engaging more meaningfully with the real people who surround us. Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, we must fight the impulse to retreat into social media and away from the world around us. We need to find – and fight for – our tribes.
Business leaders have a unique opportunity here to make a real impact on the lives of employees. Today, places where people regularly gather are far and few between. Workplaces are consistently overlooked as communal spaces – because, let’s be honest, how many workplaces are established with community in mind? Most people rarely have meaningful interactions with their coworkers while at work.
It may be obvious, but people enjoy working more if they know and like their coworkers. In this respect, establishing communities within workplaces is vital.
Which is exactly what TRIBAL enables business leaders to do.
What Is Tribal?
TRIBAL is a tribe-building platform that helps leaders connect with, grow and inspire people.