A study in today’s American Sociological Review showed that Americans have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago. In 1985, the average American had three people with whom they could confide matters that were important to them. In 2004, that number dropped to two and 25 percent had no close confidants at all.

This is  a sign that people may be living lonelier, more isolated lives than in the past. “You usually don’t see that kind of big social change in a couple of decades,” says study co-author Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Close relationships are a safety net, she says. “Whether it’s picking up a child or finding someone to help you out of the city in a hurricane, these are people we depend on.”

This change may be explained by the fact that people have more entertainment tools and technology, so they can stay home and tune out. In 2014 Researchers at UCLA conducted a study in which they found out that during the course of an entire day, America’s youth spends an average of 7.5 hours on texting, television and other digital mediums. Just zoned out in the virtual world. How will the new generation have someone to confide with if they spend almost 8 hours a day disconnected from the world and the people around them?

A different study was conducted in 2010 by Matthew Brashears, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University. Brashears surveyed more than 2,000 adults ages 18 and older from the nationally representative Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) program.

Participants were asked to list the names of people they had discussed “important matters” with over the previous six months (not necessarily people that they are close with). If respondents said “none,” they asked whether this was because they didn’t have any important matters to discuss or no one with whom to discuss them in the past six months.

About 48 percent of participants listed one name, 18 percent listed two, and roughly 29 percent listed more than two names. On average, participants had 2.03 people they had discussed “important matters” with. And just over 4 percent of participants didn’t list any names.

When Brashears looked closer at 4 percent who didn’t list any names, he found that 64 percent indicated that this was because they had no topic to discuss, while only about 36 percent had no one to talk to.

Isolation is a real issue in our society. It is self imposed and we can solve it. Yet we continue to have it. Why?