They say that friends can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Whether this premise is true or not, science seems obsessed with making numbers with friendship, measuring its duration and intensity and seeking an explanation for its decreasing trend throughout life. These are some of the key numbers of friendship.
A maximum of 150
Perhaps it is the best known figure. They call it the Dunbar number, and it is, according to the calculations of the Oxford University psychologist and anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the “stable and meaningful” relationships that we can maintain at the same time. 150 connections, not one more, and that includes family and friends. The issue was published in an article in the magazine Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1993. Dunbar’s studies argue that people from large families have fewer friends because they prioritize family members. The theory of the evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford organizes these 150 connections in concentric circles marked by the qualitative differences of the relationships. For example, limit the circle of close friends to five, and the circle of intimates to between one and two people, this figure includes the couple. The number is an approximation, and connections can vary between 100 and 250. Up to 1,500 names may sound familiar to us, and up to 5,000 faces may seem familiar. The Dunbar number has been called into question by other studies, including one led by Stockholm University professor Johan Lind, which argues that there is no numerical limit in human relationships.
The pillars of friendship
A 2016 study pinpoints the number of friends needed to make our lives a little better at six or more. Another from 2020, developed by Suzanne Degges-White, a professor at Northern Illinois University, says that middle-aged women only need to have three or more friends to raise their overall satisfaction levels.
7 factors determine that an acquaintance ends up becoming a friend. in his last book Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships, Robin Dunbar sets seven pillars of friendship. Among these factors is that the chosen person is very similar to one, with a similar sense of humor that allows them to laugh at the same things.
6 forces feed friendship, according to research results friendship files, a series of interviews by journalist Julie Beck published in Atlantic. Namely: the accumulation (number of hours spent together in common spaces such as school, work, church, or practicing a sport or hobby); attention not to miss those who could become great friends; the intention to take the initiative; the rituals to keep doing things together, like regular dinners, a book club, playing a soccer game on Sundays, or even keeping a WhatsApp group alive; the imagination that prevents limiting friendship to socially permitted terrain (Beck interviewed friends who shared a mortgage, went to therapy together, or half educated the child of one of them). And the ultimate force is something Julie Beck calls gracebut here we will call waist or flexibility to forgive some things and move on.
two They are the friends that are lost when you fall in love. Dunbar puts that price on the change of interests and social circle that generates self-absorption in a single person and the desire to share all your time with her. Dunbar calls it the domino effect and explains it that way in his book. “When you meet someone, fall in love and get married, you are investing a lot of time and mental energy in a relationship, and according to our data, you do it at the cost of sacrificing two people. With the new favorite there would already be six in the circle of intimate friends and one would have to leave. But since this new relationship consumes the equivalent of the energy dedicated to two friends, there are two people who go out expelled to the next concentric circle of relationships.”
200 hours It is the time that must be invested so that an acquaintance ends up being a friend. A study by geneticist and chronobiologist Jeffrey Hall finds the time people spend together crucial to friendship. Some data that coincide with the calculations of Dunbar who warns that close friends are expensive in terms of investment of time. A few hours that the researchers consider indicative (that no one starts counting the minutes they spend with their friends), but the general message is that friendship requires effort and work. Another study speaks of an investment of between 40 and 100 hours for a stranger to end up entering the circle of closest friends.
15 cigarettes a day It’s the number from a well-known and much-cited 2010 meta-analysis led by Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University in Utah that measured the health implications of friendlessness and isolation. Her conclusion is that loneliness has an impact on health equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
40 reasons the authors of this study found to explain why it’s so hard to make friends in adulthood. The reasons were divided into three groups that the authors called: Distrust, Lack of Time, and Introversion. Significant differences were found by gender, as women were more distrustful than men when it came to making new friends. These reasons seem to explain why social life is sometimes attempted to be reconstructed by trying to recover relationships from other times. What is called pulling agenda.
1.5: If you have a long life you will end up with one or two friends in your closest circle (1.5 according to Dunbar’s calculations), the rest will fall by the wayside. Over the years, social life tends to shrink and the concentric circles of weaker or more casual relationships evaporate. Acquaintances on the fringes of our social life are more important to us than we often think. It is that network that provides you with a break from the intensity of the closest relationships, the light connections that inform us, make us laugh and put us out in the world. The American sociologist Mark S. Granovette told it in the essay The strength of weak ties where he showed that many people found work thanks to those superficial connections. Those peripheral friends were just those who were lost during the pandemic and also those who disappear throughout life. Losing or gaining friends depends on vital circumstances such as moving, changing schools, or emigrating to another country. Dunbar believes that the number of friends stabilizes around the age of 30 when it falls again if the children arrive who are, according to the anthropologist, the killers of social life.
Do virtual friends count?
This research using data from a large Canadian survey asked that very question. In other words, if online friends have the same benefits for our health as friends, let’s call them analog. The study confirmed once again the importance of real friends in the feeling of well-being, but I cannot establish an equivalence with online connections. This work shows that singles who date are significantly happier than those who are not, and that the value of friends is greater for those who are not married than for those who are married or live with a partner. From which it follows that spouses provide similar benefits to friends.
The “friends” who do not feel good
Another work analyzes the impact on cardiovascular health of hidden toxic relationships, those ambivalent, hypercritical and competitive friends. In their experiments, participants had higher diastolic blood pressure and higher resting heart rates when arguing with an indecisive friend than when arguing with a more understanding and trusting friend. The authors concluded that people do not relax completely in the presence of “ambivalent” friends, and warn that they are not useful to help in a stressful situation.
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Source: EL PAIS