Best Of: The ‘Quiet Catastrophe’ Brewing in Our Social Lives

22 Dec 2023 • 74 min • EN
74 min
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The holidays are one of the most social times of the year, filled with parties and family get-togethers. Many of us see friends and loved ones who we barely — or never — saw all year. Maybe we resolve to stay in better touch in the new year. But then somehow, once again, life gets in the way.  This is not an accident. More and more people are living lives that feel lonelier and more socially isolated than they want them to be. And that’s largely because of social structures we’ve chosen — wittingly or unwittingly — to build for ourselves. Sheila Liming is an associate professor of communications and creative media at Champlain College and the author of “Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time.” In the book, Liming investigates what she calls the “quiet catastrophe” brewing in our social lives: the devastating fact that we’ve grown much less likely to simply spend time together outside our partnerships, workplaces and family units. What would it look like to reconfigure our world to make social connection easier for all of us? This conversation was recorded in April 2023. But we wanted to re-air it now, at a moment when many of us are spending more time in the company of people we like and love, and remembering how good that feels (at least some of the time). If you feel motivated to have a more social life next year, hopefully this episode provides a clearer sense of the structures that might be standing in the way, what it would look like to knock a couple down, and what you could build instead. Mentioned: “You’d Be Happier Living Closer to Friends. Why Don’t You?” by Anne Helen Petersen “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” by David Brooks Full Surrogacy Now by Sophie Lewis Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson Book Recommendations: Black Paper by Teju Cole On the Inconvenience of Other People by Lauren Berlant The Hare by Melanie Finn Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, with Jeff Geld, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.  

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