Friendships are one of the most beautiful parts of life. Having friends gives us purpose, allows us to have fun, and grants us the opportunity to expand our thinking. Humans are social creatures and need a community to live a healthy and happy life. Unfortunately, sometimes friendship becomes twisted into a social marker or a measurement rather than a group of people who care about your well-being.
The more friends we have, and the stronger their reputation is, the more our social status will climb as well. But is it worth it to neglect genuine friendships in hopes of being the most popular person? The short answer is no. Forming superficial relationships is rarely beneficial.
It might leave you feeling good in the short term, but when you realize that your friendships are only surface-deep, you will realize you are missing that integral piece of human connection. Conversely, quality friendships have been proven to have lasting positive impacts throughout one’s lifetime. Read on to discover how psychology explains why quality should rein over quantity regarding friendship.
Psychology Explains Why Quality Friendships Are Important
1. It Is Difficult For The Human Brain To Maintain A High Number Of Friendships
Through Dunbar’s number theory, psychology experts explain the brain’s capacity for friendship and human connections. Dunbar’s number suggests that humans only can store information about 150 people at one time. That might seem like a significant number; however, this theory also suggests that the higher the number of friendships, the lower the quality of those friendships.
That is because it is difficult to remember the minute details of someone when you have a large number of friends that you need to remember information. Consequently, large quantities of friends can lead to more shallow relationships. Although updated research has suggested that Dunbar’s number is more variable than initial studies, the premise is relevant nonetheless. When we have many friends, the number of meaningful interactions with each friend decreases even if the number of interactions overall increases.
When you have a lot of friends, you might always have someone willing to hang out with you as soon as you whip out your phone and shoot out a few texts, but you might not have precious friends who remember small but significant things about yourself. For example, quality friends remember your birthday, the special moments in your life, what kinds of TV shows you love, and your favorite pizza topping.
Likewise, if you only have a few quality friends, you are more likely to remember interesting elements of their lives and personalities. This can create a feeling of pride in who you are friends with. While a quantity friendship might mean a superficial sense of pride when you have friends in high places, a quality friendship creates pride in your friend’s accomplishments and the ways they enrich your life.
2. Quantity Leads To Loneliness
Research suggests that friendships based on quantity can lead to loneliness, especially in the older adult population. However, when examining relationships between family and lifelong friends, they found that even if there were only a handful of people in one’s life, it was better than being friends with every neighbor on the street or every member of the country club.
It might seem like family should be enough to fulfill your social and psychological needs. Still, psychology suggests that quality friendships are some of the most important relationships you can foster in your lifetime. This leads to loneliness because opening up around people you do not know can be challenging.
Typically, a person only shares as much as you share with them, making it challenging to develop a deeper understanding of a person if you only see them a couple of times a month or for a few minutes when you’re walking down the driveway. As a result, you might often feel unseen or that your friends do not truly understand or know you even when you have conversations.
One of the most prominent aspects of friendship is feeling like there is a core group of people who not only want to spend time with you. But they value you for your uniqueness and individuality. Unfortunately, it is not until you know someone well and for a larger chunk of time that you get a clear idea of who they are. This is when high-quality friendships develop, and feelings of loneliness decrease.
3. Support In Times Of Need
Quality friends are more likely to help you in times of need. This is emphasized because they probably know the best ways to help you. Maybe your friends wouldn’t mind giving you a ride to a party or coming to check on you when you’re not feeling the greatest. If you focus on quantity, several friends might be willing to help you on a whim when you need it.
But there is a key difference between helping and doing something nice or considerate and providing substantial and lasting support. You will develop a much stronger support system with fewer friends who are of high quality. For example, your friend might make you a meal, drive to your house, and pop on your favorite movie when you’re not feeling well. They might go out of their way to pick you up from the airport or to sit through the night with you when you’re down and out.
It is important to note that it is not only their presence that is important. It is also what their company offers you. If it is comfortable and they seem to know what you need, that is a sign of a quality friend—having a support system to fall back on when you are experiencing troubles in your other relationships. It can be easy to rely on romantic or familial relationships for lasting support. Still, unfortunately, there are times when these relationships fall through, and you might be left feeling like you have no one to turn to.
A quality friend is someone you can rely on and speak about matters such as this with confidence. Comparatively, if you have many different friends, there might be nobody to lean on when experiencing difficulties in your other interpersonal relationships.
4. Quality Friends Combat Depressive Thoughts
Experts have found that older people who maintain quality friendships are less prone to depressive thoughts than older people whose main social network consists of family, acquaintances, and friends who are high in number. This is especially important because mental health issues can become significant as we age.
Aging is a difficult process that brings unique challenges, such as health issues, mobility problems, and psychological struggles. However, this research indicates that maintaining a close-knit group of friends can help avoid falling victim to mental illnesses like depression.
Another interesting aspect of this is that, in some ways, quality friendships can be even more beneficial than familial relationships. This makes sense when you consider the other psychological phenomena discussed so far because the older you get, the more family relationships are formed. Because family is shifting and changing, having stable and reliable friendships makes a world of difference as we age.
Quality friends also help combat depressive thoughts because they give us things to look forward to and a reason to keep thriving. If you have many friends, chances are they would be okay to move on if anything ever happened to you. This can lead to feelings of insignificance and low self-worth. But having high-quality friends might instill a sense of responsibility and eagerness to live life to the fullest, even when you are trying.
5. Quality Friendships Are Energizing Rather Than Draining
As we grow, our time and energy begin to diminish. Keeping up with those relationships can be exhausting if we have poured all our resources into creating a broad network of friends. Unfortunately, this leads to many friendships drifting apart as we age. Therefore, it is essential to fill our time with quality friendships that make us feel excited and energized rather than inauthentic friendships that we have to dole out energy towards to maintain.
Another aspect of this is that once you know a friend well, it is easy to let your guard down and be your true self around them. This means you have to focus less on smiling and being pleasant 24/7. A real friend will understand if sometimes you make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or are having a bad day. Therefore, we can share all parts of life with them, the good and the bad.
Those relationships are energizing and uplifting when we can be authentic and genuine around friends. Conversely, putting on a facade because our friends are not accepting or do not know the more negative aspects of ourselves can take a toll on our energy and mental health. Try thinking about how you feel after spending time with one of your friends.
If you find that you are exhausted and feel heavy even if you only met them for coffee, that is a sign that they might not be the best fit for a lasting friendship. On the other hand, if spending time with them helps relieve stress and excites you to see them again, that is a friendship to which you should devote time and hold on.
Final Thoughts About Why Quality Friendships Are More Important Than Popularity
Psychology research affirms the notion that quality friends are more important than quantity. Try evaluating the reasons you feel drawn towards collecting many friends. Often, these reasons revolve around social status and wanting to feel like you are popular. If you shift your focus to developing a few reliable, deep, and precious friendships, it is guaranteed that you will have more healthy relationships, happy friendships, and people who are there for you when times get tough.