How many people in your life do you really trust? What could have been an easy question a few decades ago, now is unfortunately becoming harder to answer. What is even more interesting is that, right now, more than ever, we view people in general as less trustworthy. Why?

According to Joe Cortright , an economist who examines our social lives and social capital, “the decrease in trust is both a cause and effect of the disintegration of the public realm. People have fewer interactions with other members of their community, and that unfamiliarity breeds distrust. And because we’re distrustful, we’re less willing to invest in the public realm. It’s a cycle.” (Sonia Weiser)

Through a study, Cortright  found that, “Americans now are less likely than four decades ago to socialize regularly with their neighbors. In the 1970s, nearly 30 percent of Americans reported spending time with their neighbors at least twice a week; fewer than a quarter reported no interactions with neighbors. Today, nearly a third report no interactions with neighbors and only about 20 percent say they spend time regularly with neighbors.”

This is not surprising because we have so many ways to avoid each other via technology. Instead of gathering around a radio, we listen to our headphones disconnected from those around us. Instead of watching TV with the family, we watch most of the shows and videos alone on our phones. Instead of getting together to play sports outside, we play online. Instead of going for walks in the park, we walk around catching Pokemons. This is crazy.

So we are minimizing our social interactions and overtime interacting with people becomes awkward and uncommon. We don’t feel as comfortable in social settings so we retract into our mobile devices instead because that’s where we feel comfortable. The more human behavior we avoid the less familiar it becomes to us and the less we know how people act and how to act around them. Meanwhile by nature we are less likely to trust what we don’t know. The more we disconnect, the less we are willing to trust and the less we trust, the more we are willing to disconnect.

What can we do to break this vicious cycle? Have more face to face interactions! If you are around people, focus on them, not on your phones. If you have neighbors, talk to them, you may need their help one day. If you are at a dinner table, enjoy the company of those you are with, you can enjoy Instagram later.

Resources 

  1. Americans Are Becoming Less Social. Sonia Weiser, June 12, 2015 http://mentalfloss.com/article/65065/americans-are-becoming-less-social
  2. City Report, Joe Cortright, June 2015. http://cityobservatory.org/wpcontent/files/CityObservatory_Less_In_Common.pdf