Nav: Home

The nearer the friends, the stronger the regional identity

March 12, 2019

A new job, an academic career or a romantic relationship - there are many reasons for young people to move. But this does not necessarily lead to happiness. Satisfaction increases when people can identify with the region in which they live. The proximity of people who are emotionally important to them, however, is essential for creating this feeling of commitment. Psychologists at Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, have now identified and described these factors and their effects in a longitudinal study. They have reported their research findings in the top tier journal Developmental Psychology.

"As well as professional and personal success, it is mostly a person's commitment to his place of residence that is decisive for a truly successful life," explains Dr Elisabeth Borschel, who carried out the study as part of her doctoral research. "However, young adults in particular are under enormous pressure to be mobile, as they are expected to move frequently in order to make a start in life. We have studied the resulting tensions more closely in a longitudinal study. The study was funded by the Free State of Thuringia."

Skyping is no substitute for personal proximity

The Jena psychologists studied more than 1,000 students throughout Germany shortly before they graduated and then on two more occasions within the next year. Five hundred of them left the place where they had studied, while a second group did not move. The researchers also recorded the places of residence of the people named by the students as being important to them - family members, friends or partners. The panel study showed that the proximity of such key social contacts was of great influence on the way people identified with the region they lived in. "This is a surprising and therefore very enlightening result for us, as it contradicts a major promise of post-modern society and capitalism, which is that in our era of high mobility and modern means of communication, we can also maintain relationships independently of time and space," says Prof. Franz J. Neyer of the University of Jena, who also worked on the study. "It would seem that Skype or e-mails cannot compensate for the loss of personal - and thus geographical - proximity." This means that the greater the distance, the greater the dissatisfaction.

Moving away also has an impact on those who remain

Admittedly, there are also interactions between the emergence of a regional identity and the creation of a social network. "It really is a two-edged sword," says Elisabeth Borschel, "because someone who identifies with his geographical surroundings also finds it easier to establish important social contacts. For this reason, mobility cannot be condemned in principle, but the new location has to meet the right basic conditions for a person to find new people he can relate to." Employers, for example, should take this into account and support it when they advertise for new recruits nationwide.

"In addition, we can identify what is called passive mobility," says Neyer. "This means that if a person moves away, it also affects the significant people who stay behind - the identification with their surroundings also fades." Therefore, the research results should be taken into account in political decisions, because the spatial proximity between significant contacts also has effects on the state of a society. Appropriate measures which do not force young people to move to a new location to find a job - economic structural support, for example - could be a means of significantly boosting the satisfaction of people living in this region.
Original publication:

Elisabeth Borschel, Julia Zimmermann, Elisabetta Crocetti, Wim Meeus, Peter Noack and Franz J. Neyer (2018): Me and You in a Mobile World: The Development of Regional Identity and Personal Relationships in Young Adulthood. Developmental Psychology.


Dr Elisabeth Borschel / Prof. Franz J. Neyer
Department of Psychology of the University of Jena
Humboldtstraße 11, 07743 Jena, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)3641/945161
E-mail: /

Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena

Related Social Network Articles:

Newly discovered brain network offers clues to social cognition
By studying rhesus monkeys, researchers have identified a brain network dedicated to processing social interactions -- a discovery that offers tantalizing clues to the origins of our ability to understand what other people are thinking.
Penn study finds linkage between social network structure and brain activity
New research performed at the University of Pennsylvania finds that the brain's response to social exclusion differs depending on the structure of a person's social network.
After the death of a friend, healing in a human social network
The first large-scale study of recovery and resilience after a death in a friend group -- based on analysis of interactions in 15,000 anonymized networks on Facebook -- finds that when a friend dies, we get closer to that person's friends.
Hormone-influenced social strategies shape human social hierarchy, study shows
In a game of chicken, the most aggressive players are fueled by testosterone and are more willing to harm others; and while it may be easy to demonize such hawkish behaviors, psychology researchers from The University of Texas at Austin say there is sound evolutionary reason for their existence.
Effects of genes often influenced by network
When many genes regulate a single trait, they commonly work together in large clusters or 'networks.' Taking this into account allows better predictions of how an individual's genetic make-up affects the trait concerned.
Spread of diseases in farmed animals shown using social network analysis
Researchers have shown that looking at movements of operators and vehicles between farms in the same way we look at contacts in social networks can help explain the spread of dangerous infectious diseases of livestock, such as foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza.
Are social networking sites good platforms for providing social support?
A critical review of 10 years of research on social support via social networking sites led to the identification of current trends and the development of recommendations to guide future research.
First step towards photonic quantum network
Advanced photonic nanostructures are well on their way to revolutionizing quantum technology for quantum networks based on light.
A social network for fish
Researchers have won a major new grant award for a study that will help to improve the welfare of live fish used in scientific tests.
Multi-social millennials more likely depressed than social(media)ly conservative peers
Compared with the total time spent on social media, use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found in a national survey.

Related Social Network Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...