If you ask people to say how many of their friendships were actually genuine, what would they say?
According to a recent study, it’s a lot less than most would think and in reality only half of friendships are reciprocated. Researchers at the MIT examined a group of 84 classmates aged 23 to 38 and asked them to rank their friendships from 0 to 5.
0 for “I don’t know this person”, 3 for a “friend” and 5 for “one of my best friends”.
They found that while 94 percent expected the result to be mutual, only 53 percent gave the same answer.
Other studies have come to similar conclusions and show that people have problems perceiving what friendship means.
Part of this is because people take personal connections as a reflection of themselves and not only how well they are liked, but how good they are at establishing and maintaining relationships.
This could make people unrealistic when examining a certain friendship or over-estimate the bond with another person because it reflects better on themselves.
To show how distorted the idea of friendship becomes in adulthood, it’s worth examining how much simpler a concept it was as a child.
Children count their friend as someone they spend time with, they would do anything for, would never break a promise to and most importantly would never lie to.
As people get older it becomes a more complicated matter.
Social media has had a huge effect on how we view friendships, with the idea of “quantity, not quality” winning out in the Facebook age.
As people compare the number of followers they have gathered, those with the most friends are seen as the most popular, the most liked and the most successful.
This turns friendship into a commodity as people gather relationships, that aren’t actually valid.
Social media also dictates who are seen as having the most influence, as logically it will be those with the most connections. Ronald Sharp, an English professor at Vassar College claims social media causes people to have a distorted view of their friendships.
He said friendship should not be “about what someone can do for you, it’s who and what two two of you become in each other’s presence.”
Rather than cementing a friendship through quality time they are now established over different platforms through “liking” people’s photos or exchanging messages.
He said: “People are so eager to maximize efficiency of relationships that they have lost touch with what it is to be a friend”.
While we may misjudge how many friends we actually have, it’s not actually a huge loss as we don’t actually need as many close friendships as we believe.
Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, recently claimed that while we are able to maintain, on average, up to 150 social relationships we only have up to five close friends.
He told The Times: “People may say they have more than five but you can be pretty sure they are not high-quality friendships.”
It means that even those who appear to have an abundance of friendships, in reality, have the same amount of good friends as everyone else.
These skewed ideas of friendship have led people to misconstrue who exactly has real social influence.
A large number of followers doesn’t equal actual friendships as most of those will not be reciprocated.
Real social influencers will be within a group of friends, who share the same mutual acquaintances as they will be real relationships.