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Survey: Feeling Blue for True Blue Friends?
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An ongoing Internet survey jointly conducted by the China Youth Daily newspaper and in September shows that 87.5 percent of the surveyed people think nowadays they have more and more acquaintances and fewer and fewer true friends, the newspaper reported on September 25.

Among 15,068 surveyed people, 80 percent admit most of their friends come from schoolmates instead of colleagues; 81.2 percent view friends as being reliable; 65.9 percent think a friend in need is a friend indeed; and 52.4 percent think friends should share hardships.

Of those surveyed, 45.3 percent say they have no more than five true friends among their acquaintances; 80 percent say the number stands at 10 at most. About 30 percent say they have 50-100 acquaintances; about 26 percent say the number exceeds 100.

Among interviews of Beijing university students, a woman named Nan Nan, freshly returned from her wedding in her south China hometown, said: "I am planning a party to treat my friends in Beijing, but I can't simply make a decision whom to invite since I have so many acquaintances," she said.

Nan Nan said she had saved nearly 500 phone numbers in her mobile phone, most of whom were colleagues, clients, experts and schoolmates. "I have lived in Beijing for more than seven years and associated with various kinds of people, but the number of most frequently contacted is quite few," she said.

Most people interviewed said that they would like to talk to someone via phone when feeling unhappy, but they couldn't find an adequate person to talk to. Hua Sheng, who had graduated from university for three years, said that most of his social activities revolved around his classmates. "Colleagues' topics always focus on work and they are so boring and not friends at all," he said.

Xiao Ai, a company employee, shared Hua Sheng's opinion. "I can't make a true friend with a colleague, because it will bring troubles to my work," she said. "In my working place, salaries are secrets and one can never read the others' minds." To Xiao Ai, there were too many conflicts of interests between colleagues.

However, some people held different opinions. Xiao Xiao, working in a magazine agency, co-rents an apartment with two of her colleagues. "Everyday we go to work and back home together, and gossip about bosses together. It's fun," she said. "Colleagues can be as friendly as schoolmates. They may become true friends if treated with sincerity."

Among the surveyed people, 64.8 percent put the blame for fewer friends on the mobility of society; 58.9 percent on heavier work and social pressures; and 24.4 percent on the prevailing way of Internet contact.

A news agency worker, Xiao Chen described herself as "a girl shut behind closed doors" though she looked extroverted, frank and cheerful. Her "living principles" are to make use of Internet chat tools "QQ" and "MSN" to the full; to send short messages instead of making phone calls; and to make phone calls instead of having face to face talks. "In this way, I can raise my social contact efficiency and don't have to pretend to be well versed in the way of the world," she said.

Like Xiao Chen, Xiao Wang is a faithful follower of modern communication tools, too. Though he graduated from university four years ago, he still had few friends in Beijing with his only activity taking place in Internet cafes.

Overall, the longer since graduates had left university, the lonelier they felt and the fewer friends they had, said the survey.

Jiang Lin who graduated in 1998 said that her classmates used to hold lots of parties, but "there is few now." "We seldom contact each other now and the way to contact is to chat on the Internet occasionally," she said, adding "everybody is busy with his or her own lives and doesn't want to disturb others."

Wang Jian, working in a foreign-funded enterprise, said that he often worked in shifts and the only thing he wanted to do after work was to sleep. "Young people like me who haven't established ourselves in society yet even have no time to be in love, much less to attend social activities," he said.

Some sociologists say that the fast-paced urban lifestyle and the development of the Internet have changed the Chinese interpersonal relationship linked by ties of blood and geography, the newspaper said. They have also changed the family-based Chinese social structure. People float freely nowadays and it makes interpersonal relationship become complicated and uncertain, and thus influence people's social life. "That's the main reason that urban people feel they have fewer true friends now," experts said.

Zhang Zhiyuan, a chief executive officer of an IT company, enjoys a single and moderately well-off life. To him, friends are resources and wealth. "I 'save friends' as saving money," he said. "I keep contact with both new friends and old friends. We have parties at weekends. All acquaintances can be developed into good friends if you have a mind to," said Zhang.

Zhang suggested that the people who complained they had few friends examine their own words and deeds. "You should trust and care about others before you make others trust and care about you. What are friends? Friends are mutual and willing to pay instead of being paid only," Zhang said.

( by Li Jingrong, October 1, 2006)

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