Friendship Recession

Rio Grande del Norte Canyon

I just learned the term “Friendship Recession.” Have you heard of it?

A quick search of the internet reveals that the term has been in circulation for a while, with credible news sources talking about how it’s a threat to men’s health… and a threat to women’s health… and, just generally, a source of concern for many. The term feels new and interesting to me. But at the same time, I believe that feelings of loneliness and alienation are a part of the human condition and trace their roots back to the Fall of Humanity. So, I wonder, what’s driving the more recent discussions about a Friendship Recession in 21st Century American life?

Observers of this Friendship Recession note that it may be tied to the loss of the “Third Space” in our society, where people used to find community in between the home (presumably the “First Space”) and the workplace (the “Second Space) in places like pubs or churches or fraternal societies. That seems like a credible theory to me. These feelings of loneliness and alienation may also be connected to the rise of the Internet and the splintering of media (and social media) platforms. Technological developments have hastened and facilitated our tendencies towards tribalism and partisan thinking. And it also seems like the phenomenon may have been exacerbated by the enforced isolation of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Anyway: if people are truly feeling (or fearing) a Friendship Recession, how can we counteract the trends? I wonder about these things as a church leader. What does it mean to be good neighbors in a Friendship Recession? How can we stay others-oriented? Where might the church be able to play a valuable role in reimaging “Third Spaces” for our current milieu?

I haven’t been feeling a Friendship Recession, myself. In fact, I sometimes feel like I’ve got too many people in my life! But something tells me that there is some wisdom in slowing down and listening to others’ experiences and praying for opportunities to gain deeper appreciation for what others are thinking and feeling. So: please let me know if you have any thoughts in this direction.

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