New research suggests that more Americans are living happy lives as a singles. “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putman and the decline of community oriented clubs and groups is true, but it appears that with social networking online and in-person has lead to satisfaction with the single life. Today 27% of Americans live alone today compared to 17% at the end of the 1960s.
Below are some quotes from interviews with Eric Klinenberg, author of “Going Alone” and graphics by the NY Times and American Community Survey. Eric Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology at NYU and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.
For Going Solo, that involved a push to change the way we think about living alone. Rather than thinking about it as a social problem that needs to be solved, I argued that we should accept that there will be enormous numbers of people in big cities living on their own and start to think about how we can design places — apartment units or buildings or neighborhoods or regions — that work better. If we think about the rise of living alone as a social experiment rather than a problem, then all sorts of interesting design possibilities emerge.
We need to think about the social infrastructure as much as we do about the hard infrastructure of power lines and transit systems and communications networks. We need to think about the quality of our sidewalks and streets. We need to think about whether neighborhoods have open, accessible, and welcoming public places where residents can congregate and provide social support during times of need but also every day. There are a lot design opportunities there.
The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space.
Living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life.
It is less feared, too, for the crucial reason that living alone no longer suggests an isolated or less-social life. After interviewing more than 300 singletons (my term for people who live alone) during nearly a decade of research, I’ve concluded that living alone seems to encourage more, not less, social interaction.
Paradoxically, our species, so long defined by groups and by the nuclear family, has been able to embark on this experiment in solo living because global societies have become so interdependent. Dynamic markets, flourishing cities and open communications systems make modern autonomy more appealing; they give us the capacity to live alone but to engage with others when and how we want to and on our own terms.
In fact, living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities……………..
SURVEYS, some by market research companies that study behavior for clients developing products and services, also indicate that married people with children are more likely than single people to hunker down at home. Those in large suburban homes often splinter into private rooms to be alone. The image of a modern family in a room together, each plugged into a separate reality, be it a smartphone, computer, video game or TV show has become a cultural cliché.
New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.
Since the end of the 1960s, it is the percentage of SINGLE MEN living alone that has increased, not women.
Since the end of the 1960s, the percentage of married couples with children has significantly declined by 50% while living alone has increased.