Someone To Talk To

ISBN : 9780190661427

Mario Luis Small
288 ページ
156 x 235 mm

When people are facing difficulties, they often feel the need for a confidant-a person to vent to or a sympathetic ear with whom to talk things through. How do they decide on whom to rely? In theory, the answer seems obvious: if the matter is personal, they will turn to a spouse, a family member, or someone close. In practice, what people actually do often belies these expectations. In Someone To Talk To, Mario L. Small follows a group of graduate students as they cope with stress, overwork, self-doubt, failure, relationships, children, health care, and poverty. He unravels how they decide whom to turn to for support. And he then confirms his findings based on representative national data on adult Americans. Small shows that rather than consistently rely on their "strong ties," Americans often take pains to avoid close friends and family, as these relationships are both complex and fraught with expectations. In contrast, they often confide in "weak ties," as the need for understanding or empathy trumps their fear of misplaced trust. In fact, people may find themselves confiding in acquaintances and even strangers unexpectedly, without having reflected on the consequences. Someone To Talk To reveals the often counter-intuitive nature of social support, helping us understand questions as varied as why a doctor may hide her depression from friends, how a teacher may come out of the closet unintentionally, why people may willingly share with others their struggle to pay the rent, and why even competitors can be among a person's best confidants. Amid a growing wave of big data and large-scale network analysis, Small returns to the basic questions of who we connect with, how, and why, upending decades of conventional wisdom on how we should think about and analyze social networks.



Part I: The Question
Chapter 1: Confidants

Part II: The First Year
Chapter 2: Weak Tie Confidants
Chapter 3: Beyond Named Confidants
Chapter 4: Incompatible Expectations
Chapter 5: Relevance and Empathy
Chapter 6: Because They Were There

Part III: The Bigger Picture
Chapter 7: Empirical Propositions
Chapter 8: Theoretical Propositions
A Final Word

Part IV: Appendices
Appendix A: Qualitative Data
Appendix B: Quantitative Data


Mario L. Small, Grafstein Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, is an expert on poverty, personal networks, cities, and social science methods. He is the author of Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio and Unanticipated Gains: Origins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life.