When Facebook came out with it’s lists, I’ll admit I was confused and a bit overwhelmed. I’ve accumulated more than 500 friends, and going through that whole list to categorize everyone seemed exhausting. Instead, I tried to think off the top of my head who I’d want in my “close friend” list: Family, close friends from childhood, high school, and undergrad, and maybe grad school friends? But were all of my grad school friends really “close friends,” or just current classmates who I wouldn’t see when class was over? I ended up changing the list several times, and pondering over what a “close friend” really meant.
Apparently I’m not the only one wondering about this. Brent Beshore, a guest writer for Under30CEO.com, examined “Why You Have Fewer than 20 Friends.” Beshore describes his method of categorizing friends, in which those who have a “commonality” fall into different groups depending on what that commonality is. But they are more acquaintances than friends — they are interesting people who he values and feel add to his life, but he doesn’t “feel responsibility for their happiness.” He says most of our friendships are like this:
They are based on limited interactions and a specific type of value. That doesn’t make them worthless or unattractive. They just are what they are. We have a limited amount of resources (most importantly, time) to invest, and we must choose wisely to get the largest return on that investment (and I’m not speaking economically).”
We have to admit that there just isn’t time to keep up with all of these people in our lives. Therefore, we tend to only keep up with a select few — anywhere from a small circle of a couple of friends to 20 people. According to Beshore, a real friendship requires a true investment on both ends:
A friend understands you, including your faults, beliefs, prejudices, aspirations, and frustrations. A friendship is dynamic and ever-evolving. It molds to both friends’ needs. It supports both your lives. A friend helps you maintain your principles, never asking you to bend or break them. A true friend inspires and encourages you to live up to your potential . . . Ultimately, friendship is a mutual agreement to take partial responsibility for the happiness of each other’s lives.”
When I think of who my close friends are based on this definition, I realize that that circle is very small — and I’ve sensed that for awhile. After undergrad, friends moved away and priorities changed. Now there are just two or three who I believe really meet that definition.
I’ve heard the complaint from college friends before when they move to a new city or state: “Why haven’t I found a group of friends like on TV?” We see shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother — in reality, it’s hard to find a core group of close friends after college, who all hang out with each other every weekend.
If you’re like me and hoping to rebuild your circle, make an effort to connect with old friends and build new relationships. It never hurts to reach out to an old friend on Facebook and ask if they want to have coffee. I do the same with new people I met in graduate school.
But another great way to meet more people who are also looking for friends is on Meetup.com. I joined a few Meetups for women only and quickly met other likeminded women living in the Chicago suburbs. In some cases, it was like going on a “girl date” and meeting a new person for coffee. I met great people this way, but, like in the dating world, you have to be selective. Some people will not be for you, and that’s part of the risk you take getting out there. Still, it’s worth going through the process to find the people you can add to your circle.
We hope you’re spending time with your real friends and family this weekend. And even if you think it’s a small circle, be thankful for each person you have. It may have been better to have more friends in high school, but as an adult, it’s much better to have a few close friends who really care about you.
Read more of Brent Beshore’s input on Under30CEO.com.