On Friendship

I often joke that I have too have friends – my facebook account (yes, I have one of those, unfortunately) claims that I have 168 of them. This is obviously not entirely serious, but, really… isn’t it possible to have too many? I’m not talking about facebook friends, but about the real kind. Can you have too many?

One way of looking at it is, you only have so many hours a day to put into each friendship you have. If you’re not willing to put enough effort into keeping a certain person as your friend, and they’re not willing to spend enough effort to keep you as their friend… well, then you won’t end up as friends. Even if you don’t want to say that you need to dedicate X hours a week to each friend, I think there’s a certain level of emotional involvement you need for each friendship – otherwise it’s not a real friendship – and you can only have that with so many people. I don’t want to say that you only have so much love to go around and you have to ration it, or that once you give a certain amount to one person, you can’t give it to someone else, but it does seem obviously true that you can only do one thing at a time. Much as you might like to (and I wouldn’t like to), you can’t have everyone as your friend.

As I write this, I am thinking of someone I know who wants to be friends with everyone she meets. People find it really cute and endearing and all that how she is really nice to everyone no matter what and tries to be friends with them… but it is also somewhat sad, I think… because I know that most of these people will not take her seriously; they will (and do) see her as just this strange girl who is unreasonably nice, not be inclined to really be friends with her at a less than extremely superficial level, and she will end up having no more close friends than I, the unnaturally antisocial one, do.

I suppose, of course, that much of what I’m saying here depends on your precise definition of friendship… how is friendship to be defined, anyway? Should it be defined in such a way that this girl I speak of has many friends, or very few?

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5 Responses to On Friendship

  1. Thrawn says:

    I’d say she’s a nice person with few friends.

  2. Hoppenburger says:

    I’d say it’s definitely going to be harder for her to make close friends, but not impossible as long as some people do take her seriously. But yes, there’s definitely a limit to how many friends you can have. It varies from person to person, of course, and it depends on your definition of friend. I know I didn’t have anyone who met my definition of friend until second semester freshman year, simply because I hadn’t spent enough time with any one person.

    For a good article on a semi-related topic, check out this link:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

  3. Urs says:

    damnit, you’re beating me by sixty!

    …must friend more people I hardly know…

  4. e7th04sh says:

    yeah, recently in Poland some guys earned a lot making polish portal nasza-klasa.pl, (our class) i have something between 80 and 180 “friends” there without sending any invitations :/ i think it’s sad, i hardly know over half of those people

    anyways, about Hoppenburgers link – i have read hm… what would be the title in english… The Science of Discworld II? It says we are not humans, but chimpanzees ssaying tales… Well, they describe some problems, and slightly tell about our nature, but they are making a lot of simplifications… ironical.

  5. I’ve read about the 150-rule elsewhere; it’s an interesting idea, and interesting to apply it to this case… perhaps, since people instinctively know that everyone can only actually care about ~150 people (of course it varies from person to person), when they see that someone who treats them nicely also treats everyone else nicely, they tend to dismiss it, since if she does it to everyone it doesn’t actually mean that they’re one of her 150. So perhaps one reason people won’t take her seriously is that they’re not sure themselves whether they actually could be friends with her, even if they wanted to.

    The 150-person rule is interesting to apply to facebook as well… obviously, if I have 168 facebook-friends, a lot of them fall outside my own 150 (especially since many people, like my family, aren’t even on facebook). Though, strangely enough, I do actually know who everyone I’m friends with is – I went through one day trying to reduce my friend count be de-friending everyone whose name I didn’t connect to a person, and only got rid of one or two people. :/

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