According to this sad new study, most of your friends don’t really like you as much as you think
As if we didn’t spend enough time freaking out about how our friends feel about us, a new study published in The New York Times has the internet in panic-mode. Why? Because it proves our worst fear: Most of our friends actually don’t like us all that much. Gulp.
According to the study, we’re actually *super* terrible at judging which of the people we consider to be our friends consider us to be their friends, too. Basically, it’s a weird cycle. You know how we all have those friends we think are our actual, true love, BFFs, and then we have those friends we consider to be, you know, just less close friends? It’s actually a totally real, documented thing.
We’re *really* bad at figuring out who our mutual friends are.
What really freaked us out is the work of Alex Pentland, co-author of recent study, “Are You Your Friends’ Friend? Poor Perception of Friendship Ties Limits the Ability to Promote Behavioral Change.” According to the NYT, we can accurately rank our friendships only 53 percent of the time, despite expecting our understanding of our mutual friendships to be accurate 94 percent of the time.
Essentially, we’re all confused about what friendship means and actually entails, and we don’t all have the same understanding of friendship, resulting in us not all considering each other in the same way. How could we all be right when none of us have the same basis for friendship?
But there are layers to friendship.
The NYT piece discusses the work of Robin I.M. Dunbar, a British evolutionary psychologist, who talks about the “layers of friendship.”
Dunbar explains, “There is a limited amount of time and emotional capital we can distribute, so we only have five slots for the most intense type of relationship.”
But we feel like we have so many friends! Are we just lying to ourselves?
“People may say they have more than five [friends],” Dunbar says, “but you can be pretty sure they are not high-quality friendships.”
Ouch, Dubar. Ouch.
Don’t freak out!
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The piece discusses layers of friendships, and the variety of friendships we’re capable of holding at the same time. Maybe this means not all of our friends mean the same amount to us, or us to them, but it does mean that we aren’t just wasting our time on people who hate us. It just means that we all like each other to varying extents.
And isn’t that what happens naturally over time, anyway? You have a best friend one day you TOTALLY love, but then over the next few months your friendship shifts and you’re focusing more on another friend, and then another… but it doesn’t mean you don’t care about each of them. Just that you’re only one person and your feelings are ever-changing.
So before you freak out, take this all with a grain of salt.