A popular VICE article sets out to determine “Why Millions of Men Lose Friends in Their Twenties.”
The impetus for the article was a 2014 YouGov poll conducted in the UK that found that 2.5 million men “over the age of 18 don’t have a close friend they would discuss a serious life problem with.”
Undoubtedly the main reason for the article’s popularity was that its theme touched a nerve. The content of the article itself is fairly shallow and unilluminating.
But there does seem to a recognized problem with a decline in male friendship in the Western world. A study has found that in America, adult, white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends of all groups. And loneliness among men is thought to be a contributing factor to their higher suicide rates today.
If there is indeed a general crisis in male friendship, here are 3 reasons I can think of for it:
1) The “war” on men.
If you’re a male in today’s world, you’re constantly surrounded by propaganda that tells you that you are nothing more than a slow-witted, slovenly barbarian who only lives for sports and barbecuing on the weekend. The many men who are impacted by this propaganda will take on a persona of superficiality, and tend to form superficial friendships. Their superficiality is probably aided by an education system that gives them little exposure to deeper ideas and how to think deeply about things.
I think many men don’t place a lot of value on friendships today because they simply don’t see them as “useful.”
Utilitarianism is the belief that things are as good inasmuch as they are useful or best maximize happiness. With the decline of the Christian worldview, utilitarianism has become the dominant lens through which Western men and women view reality, and happiness has come to be associated more with careers than relationships. Combine this with the finding that men tend to be much more utilitarian than women, and it’s understandable that male friendship would take a greater hit in today’s world.
3) The changed nature of work.
In the past, as I’ve pointed out, the Western world tended to be more of an agrarian society in which the men did not have to leave home for work. If you’re a husband or father today, however, you’re usually gone from home for 10-11 hours each day for work. And in our increasingly “connected” world, work tends to make demands on you even when you’re home. All of this means that, unless you want to be an absent husband and/or father, there simply isn’t that much time to hang out with friends.
Anyways, these are my hurried thoughts on the matter. I'm sure I've ignored some other more obvious reasons for a decline in male friendships. I’ll be curious to read your responses and your own thoughts.
Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at Academia.edu.