GSo many of the digital devices that supposedly connect us are leaving many of us, myself included, feeling a bit lonely. Yes, it’s true that email, text messaging, and social media can be enjoyable and beneficial, and that they can spawn wonderful relationships. (I met the coauthor of my book on Twitter — really.) But although they may offer the illusion of doing so, online relationships simply cannot replace real, live, in-person connection. There’s just something special and irreplaceable about being physically present with another human being. And no, there’s not — and I can’t imagine there ever will be — an app for that.
The scientific literature offers plenty of insight on what close friends do for us.They give us confidence and bolster our sense of self, especially during tough times. They increase our sense of purpose and belonging. And they significantly influence some of our most important behaviors. Studies have found that if you have a friend who becomes obese you are 57 percent more likely to become obese; if you have a friend who quits smoking you become 36 percent less likely to start lighting