Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone,” will speak in Hutchinson on the 19th. I’m going to see him. He has written a whole book about the disconnection we have as a society and how it affects us all.
He defines our connection with others as “social capital.” He says it has declined dramatically and uses nearly 500,000 interviews to prove his point. He says in the last 25 years we belong to fewer organizations, meet with friends less, and even socialize with our families less. We’re even bowling alone, instead of in leagues.
Trends over the last 25 years include:
attending club meetings – down 58%
family dinners – down 33%
having friends over – down 45%
This lack of connection contributes to all kinds of social problems – violence, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, etc. – all of them are tied to this lack of connection. For reasons I don’t understand, we don’t seem to care. I think I mentioned here recently how having family dinners together dramatically cuts down on the chance your teen will engage in risky behavior of various sorts.
A couple of interesting facts Putnam mentions – joining one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year. Also, ten minutes of commuting cuts your social capital by 10%.
I’m always going on and on and on about our lack of connection with each other and it largely falls on deaf ears and alternately ticks people off that I won’t let go of this one issue, but I know it’s critical. I’m eager to hear Dr. Putnam speak – maybe people will listen to him since he’s a doctor.