Relationships Over Time

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Humans will always be interacting with each other in different ways. Man is a social animal and by nature, humans need relationships to be happy and content. I was curious to see how more intimate types of relationships have changed and become more or less prominent over time. For this reason, I decided to search the words “marriage”, “sex”, and “friendship” on Google Ngram to see if there have been any significant changes in the past two hundred years.

It was interesting to see that marriage has stayed relatively consistent, with the exception of a time period around the 1920s. The 20s marked a period of time of independence. It was a time for young people to let go and enjoy themselves. Young women were especially less interested in marriage because of this newfound freedom.

On the other hand, sex and friendship have seen dramatic changes in usage over time. You can see a large and gradual increase in “sex”, but an equivalent decrease in “friendship”. This change reflects how American culture has gone from relatively conservative to very liberal in this sense. Sex has become more and more casual, while less and less importance has been placed on friendship. In this age of social media and smart phones, people more than often converse through chatting and text messaging. This perhaps is weakening the average person’s ability to socially interact with people face-to-face. As a result, people have most likely become more introverted and are less capable of developing and sustaining friendships.


3 thoughts on “Relationships Over Time”

  1. I thought this was a really interesting topic because like you said, it shows how America has become a more and more liberal country. I also see that there is a jump in sex between the twenties and forties, which could be because of the Roaring Twenties and the new lifestyle of celebration and flapper girls (think of the Great Gatsby). It’s honestly a little disappointing to see how much friendship has decreased over time and how sex is almost equal with marriage. In a way, this could relate to us college students due to the “partying and sex” lifestyle a lot of people have started to lead. At least marriage has stayed pretty constant over time; that’s comforting to me.

  2. It’s interesting to see how “marriage” dips during the two world wars and perhaps the Great Depression as well. This is just probably one of the examples displaying how wars and large, historical events can affect culture and literature during that time period. There also seems to be a sharp increase in “sex” during the latter half of the 20th century. The factors that may have caused this sudden rise probably include the culture of the 1970’s , which included the rise in intimacy and the increase of drug use. The 1970’s was also a time period when there was a dramatic increase of the study of STD’s and STI’s; the increase in the number of studies may have influenced the occurrence of the word “sex” in print. While it is important to analyze the relationship between the relative frequencies of “marriage,” “sex,” and “friendship,” it is also important to look at how external factors may have affected these frequencies as well, not only in relation to one another.

    1. I think you both make excellent points. It is slightly disheartening that sex has gone so far as to equal marriage, and we can definitely relate to this idea as college students. It also makes sense that wars would cause a decline in marriage. Someone who is more knowledgable about American history would probably be able to provide great insight about why these relationships have changed the way they did. I did not previously take into account that “sex” could also be referred to in a scientific manner, which significantly could have attributed to its rise. “Sex” could also be referred to as one being male or female, and more recent increasing discussion of LGBT groups and gender roles could also have caused an increase in its frequency.

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