One weird trick to solve America’s loneliness crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all spent less time with friends. Sure, many of us got to spend far more time with our family since we were not allowed to go outside the house. But apart from some carefully socially distanced driveway campfires, we didn’t really spend too much time with friends and neighbors.

Since the lockdowns have ended, the time people have spent with their friends has recovered slightly, according to the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey. But we remain far below where we were back in 2010, and when you look at the year-by-year data, it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is the real culprit here.

As economist Bryce Ward has recently noted, the real decline in time spent with friends started in 2014, which just happens to be the same year that smartphone market penetration passed 50%. It really does seem as though, collectively, we are all
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