Inside: How Many Friends Do You Need To Be Happy.
As an adult, I’ve managed to hang on to a good group of friends that I’ve gathered throughout life including childhood, school, work, and marriage. I’m lucky to say I have a good group of “ride or die friends” who for the most part would do anything for each other if push came to shove. In this day and age of social media and seeing my children vying for “likes” and “comments” on their social media postings it got me to thinking about the pressure put on friendship in life.
After all, friends provide us with a sense of belonging and make us feel happy which in turn makes us healthy both physically and mentally. Friends provide that close relationship that most yearn for, that special someone we can talk to about anything and know we won’t be judged or ridiculed.
As I’m writing this I glance over at my Facebook page in amazement that I’ve amassed 540 “friends” over the years since joining the platform. Full disclosure I tried to determine the date I joined but it seemed like a lot of work so let’s just leave it at “a bunch of years”.
540 friends seem like an impossibility and it is. I don’t know 540 people and chances are I interact with about 25 of those Facebook friends regularly. Some are people I interact with daily, family, friends from high school and college (the people who might not have given you the time of day in school but fast forward 30 years and we talk), others are friends I’ve met through the music scene I follow, and others are just that, others.
I didn’t set out to go after this lofty goal of having so many friends on my list but it just sort of happened. Do these “friends” care about me? Do they care every time I post a picture of my dog or yard, or a snapshot of my feet in the sand or the dinner I’m about to wolf down?
Did they ever really think about what I was having for dinner before social media? Do they now wait on the edge of their seat every night for a sneak peek at my next entree? I doubt it, because I know I don’t. But then again I may just be a cynical shit.
I’m working under the assumption that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow there wouldn’t be a go fund me set up and donated to by everyone on my list, maybe a scattering would send the traditional message like “he was such a sweet guy”, or “such a fun person to be around”. The things you wait to say to people until after they’re gone.
In the early ’90s, a British anthropologist by the name of Dr. Robin Dunbar stated that humans could likely only maintain social relationships with an average of around 150 individuals (a mix of family, friends, or casual acquaintances) due to the size of our brain’s neocortex. The more social connections we had the more brainpower we would need and we don’t have the brain capacity for more.
I agree with this brain capacity theory. I couldn’t possibly add more people when I can barely remember what I had for breakfast. As I get older and meet new people I find myself asking if I want to invest in another friendship or am I happy with the friends I have. It’s like hanging a no vacancy sign around my neck when I meet new people. “No more room at the Inn for you, sorry”.
The 4 Types of Friends
These are the people we sort of know and we see somewhat regularly. We can make small talk with them but we don’t have an emotional attachment. This might be the person you see every morning at the gym that you talk to briefly about nothing at all. “What are you working today – your legs? Don’t skip leg day“.
An acquaintance may turn into a different type of friend at some point if you feel like investing the time.
Casual friends are the people you see every Tuesday night in your toenail clipping for beginners’ class. You enjoy their company enough to cut toenails with each other and maybe grab a drink after class, but if you didn’t share this common like or activity you most likely wouldn’t see each other or ever get together.
Close friends are those that grow through the layers of friendship. They start as an acquaintance and then turn into casual friends. You meet someone at the gym who you help spot every time you’re there and you seem to hit it off. You both enjoy fitness and working out so you decide you should both set a schedule to lift together. As you go about your workouts you start sharing a bit about yourself and life continue to enjoy getting to know one another and most importantly spending time together.
Close friends always have your back no matter what. They can be trusted with your darkest deepest secrets. They like you when you’re angry, happy, or when your relationship ends for no reason and you’re going off the deep end.
Your intimate friends are the ones you are connected with the deepest. Your intimate friends let you in completely. They know everything there is to know about you and they still stick around for better or for worse. Like the fact that you take a toe-nail clipping class once a week.
For many, this type of friend is their spouse or partner but it doesn’t have to be. It could truly be just your best friend, bosom buddy, confidant, soul mate, bestie, BFF, and whatever other names you can come up with.
But Aristotle disagreed and said there are only three friendship types
This guy… Aristotle (ancient Greek philosopher and thinker) described friends in only three categories.
You go out of town and you need someone to take the packages in the house off your porch before the “porch pirates” get them or you need someone to feed “Scruffy” and take him for a walk. Who do you look to? Why your utility friends of course. These are your friendships built on convenience. You’d most likely not find any other need to enjoy spending time with these people but they are safe and most likely won’t kill your dog.
Utility friends are good for tasks and helping out and once that task is over the friendship tends to go away. Seems kind of sad right? Aristotle seems like he was a bit of a bastard.
These are the people you enjoy spending time with and you have a great time. These are your neighbors who come by every Friday night to drink some cocktails or play games. They help keep things fun and don’t bring drama to the situation.
They may be your golf buddies, your sideline parents at football or soccer, or the same faces you see around regularly. You enjoy spending time with these people, they make you happy and vice versa. As long as everyone stays happy they will continue to be a pleasure friend.
Good friendships are based on mutual respect, and appreciation of each other and what you bring to the relationship as an individual. These relationships can start based on a shared interest and blossom into something bigger and deeper. You share with the good friends and connect on a different level. If you are lucky your utility and pleasure friends grow into your good friends!
You value who that friend is, you take the good and the bad and you trust each other with everything. These relationships are deep and long-lasting even if you don’t see each other regularly. Have you ever connected with an old friend and within 15 minutes your right back to where you were the last tie you saw each other, even if that was 10 years ago? That is a good friendship.
SO HOW MANY FRIENDS DO YOU REALLY NEED??
Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, and Phoebe had it right. Experts have weighed in that the perfect number of friends you should have in life as an adult is around 5-7 to be content and happy. That’s not so to say if you have more than 5-7 you’ll be miserable. It just means that you’ll have more work ahead of you maintaining those relationships.
At the very least have that one go-to person, that BFF, who you know you can always count on. If you want more than one then you need to start converting some of your acquaintances into closer friends. Spend more time with these people and get to know them on a deeper level.
Developing friendships, like any relationship, takes time and effort. If you want this person to be there for you then you need to be there for them.
How many friends do you have in your life and what do you do to maintain your relationship? Comment below.
I always have said those friendships that stick around for many years are the best friendships. It is hard to believe that I’ve had some of the same friends since my school days. My family was military, and so we moved around a lot, but I was still able to make friends, and keep those friendships going for many years. I love this post! — I’ll need to take some time out today, and say hello those friends.
I agree with your variation of friends. I have only two super close friends and I consider as much family as my actual family and in some cases (frankly) even more. I do have a lot of ‘friends’ on social media, most of them I actually know-know, offline but these acquaintance at best and lots of work contacts (because you here everything is done through connections). I don’t mix social media and actual friends even though I do feel obliged to at least like what the post on social media
Probably a good idea not to mix social media friends.
One of the ideas I’m becoming more comfortable with as I get older (and wiser) is that not everyone needs to be the same kind of friend as each other, and not everyone needs to be the same kind of friend as me. I really got into a lot of emotional trouble in the past expecting too much from friends. I still find it important to make new friends as I live overseas and tend to travel a lot.
Over the past few years, I’ve lived in 3 different parts of the globe and making new friends as an adult. Can be challenging.
Meeting people is easy, but finding your tribe and forming meaningful connections takes patience and time. I don’t know if there is a magic number of friends needed for happiness, but I do believe quality over quantity is applicable in this case. It could be the magic formula for happy friendships.
Quality over quantity all the time.
The different types of friends you went over is fantastic! I’d say I have one in each of those, I don’t keep a very large group of friends as many of them were not the type of friends you want as you grow older. This was a wonderful post to read and I agreed with several of the things you write about.
Everyone needs one or two really good friends! As you get older, you realize that people who you were once close to can and will drift away. They will be replaced by new friends event though you’ll still have the memories of those good times. However, if you are lucky, your spouse will become your best friend.
It worked for me. 🙂
As an adult, I am very picky with who I allow into my life. I feel like I don’t need much. However, after reading this, I now understand that it’s not about having a lot of friends. It’s about having categorised friends. As for me right now I only have ‘Close friends’ but I’m ready to explore and meet new people.
good for you Sonia!
What a good question…for me it is all about quality over quantity…I would much rather have 2/3 good friends than 10 fake ones x
When I was younger I had a lot of friends — by which I mean close friends. As we’ve grown older and gotten a lot busier, I have a handful of best friends that I talk to frequently, but a lot of the others who are more kind of outer periphery friends. Which doesn’t mean we aren’t there for each other, just less often. The biggest challenge is finding time to nurture these friendships.
Time is always an issue but like all relationships they do take time to nurture.
I have just a handful of friends and I’m happy with that – it takes me too much effort to start/ develop relationships and I find it exhausting. The friendships that have endured are the ones which are effortless to an extent.
Aristotle got it right. As sad as it is we all have utility friends – what would we do without them! And sometimes they do cross over into the better categories!
This is so true! It’s crazy how many people add up on our social media ‘friends’ list that we likely will never talk to. So many kids today fail to understand the difference between social media friends and actual friends. I can’t imagine going through life without my bestie… We met in University and she’s still ‘my person’.
Having lived in multiple countries, I have accumulated friends in different parts of the world. Most of those are loose friendships – i.e. we hang out only when I’m in that country. It’s great because it feels just like old times when we do, but we are not caught up on each other’s everyday things and they are not the people I speak to when I have a problem or success.
At the moment, I have two really close friends that I communicate with very regularly and could speak to about almost anything. In addition, I have three close family members – so that’s a total of 5 people that I feel very close to. Pretty neat!
Worldwide friends! How cool
As I look back I feel I have been blessed to have some great friends over the years. Some from school, college & university and professional life. But I was always very selective of who I am really close to. And I can count them quickly.Most of them are from my college days, some from school and only a few from my profession.
Love this reminder! When I was younger I had a ton of friends, but as I’ve grown older and have moved around I’m more intentional about being selective about who I let in my world and who I let take up precious time.
Thanks for the comment Chloe
I’ve had three people I’ve loved completely in my life. My husband, my best friend, and my favorite person on the planet. Everybody else is just, well, there. Making friends as an adult is just weird. Like we pick certain people and just decide to hang out with them and do stuff. What makes us gravitate toward certain people? I’m pretty sure most of my casual friends think I’m a bit crazy, and I kind of like it that way. Keeps them at a distance most of the time. I probably have a few more friends than I realize, but not many. I’ll never be popular, nor do I want to be. I want the two closest people to listen to my bullshit, tell me that’s exactly what it is, and keep listening. I’m pretty happy right there. Lol.