Experts Say Women Need Connections beyond Social Networks; WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND - FOR REAL?

By Jones, Tracy | The Florida Times Union, October 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Experts Say Women Need Connections beyond Social Networks; WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND - FOR REAL?


Jones, Tracy, The Florida Times Union


Byline: TRACY JONES

Making friends used to be so simple. Sharing a sandbox or bonding over a box of crayons was all that was necessary to turn two girls into BFFs - matching bracelets and all.

Now, with technology, time-consuming responsibilities and social barriers, it's not nearly as easy as it was in childhood. And even though it's difficult to make friends, experts say it's essential for women's emotional and physical health.

"You can't just walk up to another woman and say, 'Hey, do you want to go out?' " said Shasta Nelson, a life coach. "There're no pickup lines."

Nelson recognized the frustration of making friends in her own life when she moved to San Francisco. So she launched GirlFriendCircles.com, a website where women pay to find compatible friends based on online profiles and photos. Nelson launched the Jacksonville market for the site in July and has about 50 women participating.

Why would anyone pay for friends? Because between raising kids, working and running a household, women often don't make time for friendships in their lives, Nelson said.

Christina Barbieri, 29, moved to Jacksonville from Atlanta in July to live with her fiance, Glenn Meloni. She said she's lucky because her best friend just moved to Jacksonville, but she's been focused on her job as a retail manager, so she hasn't had time to form a core group of girlfriends. Barbieri said this is one of the main things she misses from Atlanta.

Barbieri participated in a women's Bible study group every Monday in her hometown, and the women in the group would talk about their week and be a constant in each other's lives.

"We were a group of girls coming together and living life together," she said. "I miss that so much, and I want to find that here for myself."

Having a core group of friends for women is essential for emotional well-being and is a lot more important than just having good gossip partners, said Paul Dobransky, a psychiatrist, director of womenshappiness.com and author of "The Power of Female Friendship: How Your Circle of Friends Shapes Your Life."

Dobransky wrote his book after reading an article that suggested women now have only one really good girlfriend in their lives, compared to having at least two 20 years ago. Dobransky said having one or no friends can be psychologically damaging.

"Communicating with other women is an exceptionally powerful force, not only for an individual woman's health but for her sense of vitality and passion for life," he said.

The Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School, an ongoing investigation that began in 1976, found that the more friends a woman had, the less likely she was to develop illnesses later in life, and that lack of friendships for women can be as harmful as smoking or being overweight. …

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