For many years, socialization among US Americans has been a topic of particular interest for me. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve socialized with friends from around the world since I was very young, yet born and raised in the U.S., and noticed some key differences (and because my degree is in Psychology).

For me, it started with pen pals – from Greece, France, and Japan (I’m still in touch with my Japanese friend after more than 20 years!). In college, my pals were from Germany, Nepal, Greece, and who had multiple citizenship with the US, France, and Italy. I spent a Semester Abroad in Paris and hung out with students from all over the world. After college, I befriended a group of South Americans from Chile, Argentina, and Peru. For the past several years, I’ve also enjoy my Brazilian friends, as well as those from Scandinavia.

One thing that has stood out to me for a long time is the difference between how US Americans (and maybe Canadians) and other nationalities socialize. The distinction I’ve noticed is this: After college, US Americans tend to be very “couple-oriented” while those from other countries still socialize in groups. By “couple-oriented,” I mean male and female, romantic couples (though certainly, it may be similar for non-heterosexual couples). If you’re in a relationship in the US, chances are you’ll be invited to dinners or outings where there are other couples (US Americans tend to be obsessed with even-ing out the number of male and females). Chances are, if you’re single, you won’t be invited to these same events (noticed that single folks?).

Non US Americans socialize in pairs, sure, but they also socialize quite a bit in mixed groups. For example, when I hung out with my South American friends, we would do things together, as a group. It was a mixed group of females and males, some couples, mostly singles. If, say, I wanted to go to a movie, I could call up any of the friends, male or female, and ask them if they were interested – without the platonic vs non-platonic stigma you find in North America (e.g., “She/he wants to date me”). How refreshing!

The important social psychological / anthropological point I’d like to make regarding the difference in socialization styles is the fact that I suspect that US Americans have, until recently, left out a large percentage of people from social events. This in fact, could very well have (wouldn’t be surprising) led to isolation and depression in the United States (heck, if they claim that almost 19 million people in this country are depressed then something has got to be wrong, right?).

What’s fascinating – and very wonderful to me – is how social media and especially sites like www.meetup.com bring people together, create community, and foster group events with both single and partners. While Meetup.com groups create events for singles that may have otherwise been lacking the friends or excuses to get out, social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace foster communication between people in an unprecedented amount. It’s truly a significant change in our socialization and I am very interested in seeing how those “Depression” statistics play out in the coming years.

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