According to a relatively recent report by the Pew Research Center, half of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends on the site (the other half have less than 200). Probably unsurprisingly, the younger you are the more Facebook friends you’ll tend to have. For example the median (midpoint) number for 18-29 year-olds is 300, while for 50-64 year-olds it’s 75.
Rather unfairly it is of course fashionable to suggest that Facebook friends aren’t always friends in the true sense of the word, but since friendship is a such a broad church I have no trouble whatsoever with the label.
Why not? Well, would I regard the hundreds of people in the address pages of my time planner as friends? Most of them, certainly. Do I see them frequently? Many of them, no, sadly. But they’re in my address book and in my thoughts.
I think that if you ask people whether Quantity or Quality is most important in friendships, most would tend to say it doesn’t matter how many friends you have, but it does matter – and matter a lot – how close your relationships are.
I don’t think I’d argue with this, and in fact I regularly remind us both via these Moodnudges of the value of investing in our relationships with those to whom we’re closest.
But let’s wonder just for one moment whether or not there could also be merit in focusing on quantity as well as quality?
Here are four reasons why I think it can be really good to broaden your circle of friends a little:
1. Since everyone has their own unique take on life, having a somewhat wider range of friends enables you to see things from a range of different perspectives.
2. With only a limited number of people on whom you can call, what happens when you need them but they’re all busy? Developing a wider support network makes it more likely that people will be available when required.
3. Somewhat inevitably you’re certain to have friendships that wax and wane, so starting new relationships makes great sense: rather like sowing more seeds in your garden than you may eventually need.
4. Making a new friend can do wonders for your self-confidence. Whatever “it” is, you’ve still got it.
So please by all means continue to value, cherish and nurture your most important relationships, but don’t lose sight of the value of forging new friendships, as well as getting to know existing but less-close friends better.