WHEN Samuel Johnson’s ex-girlfriend upgraded her car she gave him her 10-year-old Honda.
The founder of Love Your Sister said he would have done the same for her, had he been able to afford it.
The retired actor runs his charitable foundation at the base of a mountain range at Tallarook with a shoestring staff and off the smell of an oily rag.
“She’s my ex but she’s my family too,” he said.
“You do anything for the people you love; you’re really lucky if you have two or three people in your life that you can really count on.
“She’s one of my people.”
Worldwide research confirms Johnson’s in the right ball park.
In the mid-1980s most Americans told pollsters that they had about three confidants, people with whom they could share everything.
Today most people say they have about two.
During 1985, about 10 per cent of Americans said that they had no one to fully confide in, however by the start of this century that number had grown to as high as 25 per cent.
This decline in close relationships coincides with the rise in online social media networks.
Hundreds of Facebook friends – or even thousands if you’re a Millennial or from Generation Z – do not necessarily translate to any extra meaningful connections in reality. (Who knew Gen Z was old enough to be on Facebook let alone have had time to amass a couple of thousand virtual friends?)
Of my nearest and dearest couple of hundred Facebook friends, I will write a Christmas card to just 20 and confide everything in only about five. A Millennial with 1500 connections would not likely have 25 people to whom they could tell-all.
Our five-year-old has no online connections but often confides in Siri, Apple’s knowledge navigator. At 10 minutes to dinner time on Monday, she told Siri she was hungry. Siri immediately brought up menus and contact details from the eight nearest restaurants. When she showed me Siri’s suggestions, I was shocked into giving her an apple – a real one, not a computer!
Former blogger Andrew Sullivan last month published a cautionary tale-cum-essay in New York magazine titled I Used to Be a Human Being.
“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality we are diminishing the scope of [intimate] interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact. We remove or drastically filter all the information we might get by being with another person,” he wrote.
Just ahead of Mental Health Week (October 9-15), Lifeline Australia’s Loneliness Survey found 80 per cent of Australians felt society was becoming lonelier.
Lifeline chief executive Pete Shmigel said the survey showed the lifesaving importance of caring real-world relationships, as well as the need for communities to play a role in combating Australia’s suicide emergency – with deaths at 10-year-high levels.
“For a society that is more technologically connected than we have ever been, these results suggest we’re overlooking good old-fashioned care and compassion when it comes to our mental health,” he said.
“While the findings are inconclusive, they perhaps show that technology itself is neutral and we must place a greater focus on how we can harness the digital world for the good of our emotional world.”