Researchers from the University of Chicago noted that loneliness has nothing to do with the number of friends a person has. Loneliness isn't just about being alone; it's how we feel about being alone.
We probably all know what it's like to feel lonely surrounded by people at a party. And to feel fulfilled in an empty house. And we agree that quality trumps quantity in our friendships. People with just a few friends are not sad and lonely. As long as our friendships--however many or few--are close and meaningful, we're good.
The word "friend" is tossed around too freely these days, anyway. I prefer to distinguish among friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Also between real-world friends and Facebook "friends."
"Dunbar's number," proposed by anthropologist Robin Dunbar in 1992, is a commonly used assessment of the number of relationships we are cognitively capable of keeping straight; that number is 150. I probably have a network of that many people in my life. I certainly wouldn't call them all friends, though.
In fact, I'm an avid Facebook user but I'm starting to feel like I have too many "friends" even there. I'm not terribly far above the number at which people might judge me desperate. Research reveals that the ideal number of Facebook "friends" is 302. That's enough so you don't seem pathetic, not so many that you seem needy. But I have accepted "friend" requests from people with whom I feel no particular connection. In some cases, these strangers have become virtual friends. Some have even become real friends.That's cool. But others have just remained little faces in a box. We have nothing to say to each other. And having lots of "friends" doesn't make me feel better about myself. It makes me feel kind of...phony.
And that's one of the reasons I gave up Facebook - because I have no desire to communicate one-way with a bunch of people who really don't give a tinker's cuss whether I live or die. I'm definitely not going to share my innermost thoughts with those people. Sorry guys - out you go. Next garbage collection is on Wednesday.
Do we know what real friends are these days, or are we all in the business of collecting acquaintances? And what for - to make us feel good? To be seen as part of the crowd? Shame, that you might have such a shaky self-image that you have to conform to other's expectations of you in order to feel good about yourself. None of these people is ever going to lift a finger to help you in a jam - a friend in need is a pest. And they probably talk about you behind your back, in none too complementary terms either.
Nope - I've found that with the uptick in distrust and emotional dishonesty, I have little desire to try and sift the wheat from the chaff in trying to work out my friends from my foes. I'd rather be in a battle on my own - at least I know who I can trust.
And do I have someone other than my family that I feel I can today call "friend"? Sure - one person. Let's keep it like that. And tough on you if you think that makes me seem "pathetic" because it's less than 302.
I prefer to think of myself as discerning.