It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“People who live in walkable communities are more civically involved and have greater levels of trust than those who live in less walkable neighborhoods. And this increase in so-called ‘social capital’ is associated with higher quality of life.” (“Walk Places, Meet People, and Build Social Capital” Science Daily, 12/7/2010)
I started thinking about the difficulty of modern-day friending as soon as I moved to Chicago. I worked from home and had a limited number of local contacts to help me build a social network. And the Midwest is friendly, sure, but I could easily be anonymous in this big city. Unless I actually walked up to a random stranger at yoga class, I had no idea where to start.
I figured a small town would be easier. Everyone would know everyone and neighbors would stop by with welcome-to-the-neighborhood bunt cakes.
Until my mom told me that the creepiest thing about moving to a small town was how empty the streets were. “There was no one else walking down the sidewalk,” she said. “It occurred to me that I could be abducted right there and no one would even notice.”
Well, that wouldn’t be good.
New research supports my mother’s take on the City Mouse vs. Country Mouse debate. People who live in walkable areas are more involved in their communities and thus more social.
The issue, from what I can surmise, is twofold. 1) If we must drive every time we want to see other humans, we’re not gonna. We’ll just look at people on our TV. We’re a lazy bunch.
2) If you’re driving everywhere, you’re automatically interacting with fewer people. You’re not going to meet someone while you’re crossing the street like my friend Jenna did. Or when he knocks you down and causes the contents of your purse to go flying. Wasn’t that the beginning of Carrie and Big?
Now that I think about it, the walkability of my neighborhood has indeed provided me with a few friends. There’s the salesgirl on my corner, whose store I frequent whenever I need a quick get-me-out-of-the-house walk around the block. Then there’s the girl (not yet a friend, but maybe one day! I’m working on it…) I met through my cleanse, which I only signed up for because it was at new yoga studio a quick walk from my house. And I have a friend who I met through my online essay, but the fact that she lives two blocks away means we have started to hang out for Friends marathons on lazy Sundays.
I guess walkability isn’t actually limited to cities, and non-walkability isn’t strictly small towns or suburbs. L.A. is the least walkable place on earth, isn’t it? Is it the hardest city for friending?
Have you found that being able to get somewhere on foot makes for an easier time of making friends?