What is a friend? If one were to Google this exact term, the definition given would be as follows: “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” In other words a friend, a true friend mind you, is someone a person can confide in. As well, trust is a major factor. A friend is not an acquaintance. Many people use the term “friend” very frivolously.
In this age of social networking, many people seem to collect people to add to their friends list. But, just how many of these people are actually friends? Or for that matter, provide some benefit to enhance our lives down the road? Most likely, not many. In fact most people can only handle between 100 and 230 relationships, with around 150 being the most common. This is known as Dunbar’s Number. This is an excerpt of the article:
“Dunbar’s number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.”
Despite all those ornamental friends on our social networking Christmas tree, people are feeling more isolated and lonely. A study by the University of Chicago demonstrates this.
“…while Internet social networks may make us feel that we know hundreds of people, research is showing that we feel more isolated than ever before. A 2006 study published in American Sociological Review found that people in the U.S. had fewer friends than they’d had 20 years prior. In 1985, the average American claimed to have three close confidants (which could have included spouses or family members, in addition to friends), but by 2004, the average American had only two close confidants. One in four people reported having no one to talk to at all.”
It is quite interesting that in this age, with virtually a limitless availability of communication methods, that people feel so isolated. Perhaps society took for granted going to visit friends out of the blue. Or actually calling someone to catch up on the latest events in each others lives; rather than reading the news feeds.