Natalia Lusinski
May 08, 2016 11:55 am
NBC

Do you know who your friends are? Not really, according to a new study, which insinuates that we’re not good at determining if a friendship is reciprocated.

The DL? Tel Aviv University and MIT researchers surveyed 84 students (23-38 years old, 40 percent male, 60 percent female) in a university class and the students ranked their relationships from “0” to “5,” from “I do not know this person” to “One of my best friends,” respectively, with a “3” meaning “Friend.”

Makes sense, right? And you hope that if you state someone’s your BFF, they consider you to be their BFF, too. In the study, 94 percent of the time, someone who considered “x” their friend assumed that “x” would say the same about them — they’re friends, no question. But, only half (half!) of the friendships were reciprocal.

Okay, this was just one study, you may be thinking. But when the researchers looked at data from five previous friendship surveys of 600 students (from universities in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East), they found similar info. They looked at a study of adolescents, too, which discovered that only 64 percent of friendships were two-sided.

So what’s a one-sided friendship to do? The authors came up with an algorithm to predict if a friendship will be reciprocal. Two main indicators were “social embeddedness,” aka if both people’s friendship circles overlap, and “social centrality,” aka the difference in one’s social hierarchical status. The question is — how do your friendships measure up?

Of course, “friend” can mean many different things to many different people, and the various kinds of friends one has (work versus childhood, for instance) were not differentiated in the above study. For instance, just look at Facebook, where 1,000-some (give or take) people are our “friends.” So, I get how we may think someone’s a closer friend than they actually believe they are, but how often do you see those Facebook friends offline and IRL? Anyone can type “Happy birthday!” on someone’s wall, but do you call or see the person on their birthday, too?

In any case, the above is interesting and should make us all think twice about our friends and what friendship really means. But the most important thing of all is that we remain a good friend to people and have at least one reciprocal “5” (aka “One of my best friends”) in our lives.

Advertisement