The case for fewer friends

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After two years of pandemic life, you could find yourself at a fork in the friendship road, choosing between a whittled-down social circle and becoming overextended trying to make up for lost time with everyone on the outer reaches of your network. Amid an ongoing loneliness epidemic, people may feel renewed in their efforts to revive their networks due to the anxiety-inducing realization that their friend group has shrunk to an all-time minimum. Realizing the potential of fostering just a few intimate relationships, however, can be empowering.

Having lots of friends does have benefits: Acquiring a large quantity of friends in your 20s can help inform the quality of friendships you’ll have in your 30s, according to research. “People in their 20s tend to want to build a big roster of friends, because their motive is to expand their sense of identity, and you can do that through different types of people,” says psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco, author of the upcoming book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends. People who regularly interacted with 10 or more friends in midlife have higher levels of psychological well-being than those who had fewer than 10, according to a 2012 study. We also know that maintaining friendships leads to positive life satisfaction, minimizes stress, and even contributes to better physical health outcomes.

But you don’t need a roster dozens deep to enjoy the fruits of friendship. Franco says even having one friend is a net positive. “The biggest return we get in friendship is going from zero to one friend in terms of its impact on our mental health and well-being,” Franco says. “If you can get that deep with one person, it’s going to be powerful and it’s going to be impactful, and you don’t need to have a ton of friends.”


https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/Z_bNxsUTC9Xaw-NVwfeu1GDHAFI=/0x0:3000x1688/1820x1024/filters:focal(1290x663:1770x1143):format(webp)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/70946704/Untitled_Artwork_200.0.pngIllustration by Shanée Benjamin for Vox



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