Everyone is different when it comes to social needs. Some people have a few close fiends and are quite satisfied, others need many friends to be happy. But how many friends does an average person really need? Can you have too many friends?
Let's make it clear from the start, by friends we don't mean Facebook friends. On Facebook, you can add whoever you want as a friend, from your TA to your future mother-in-law. This doesn't automatically make them your real-life friends. By friends we mean people who you share a strong interpersonal bond with. So, how many friends do you really need?
In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar came up with the theory that humans can comfortably maintain around 150 stable social relationships. This number was named Dunbar's number after him. However, a stable social relationship doesn't necessarily mean friendship. Your relatives (not all of them, of course, but at least the closest ones), acquaintances, and other people you know and keep social contact with also count.
Mind that maintaining a stable social relationship does not imply communicating with a person every day or every other day. You can hear from a person once every month or so and still consider them an acquaintance. Besides, even as far as friends are concerned, there are different levels of friendship. You can have a best friend or friends, close friends, and simply friends. The level of friendship depends on your level of emotional closeness to a person you call your friend.
As you see, it's impossible to figure out the exact number of friends one really needs because the criteria are too vague. However, psychologists claim that it is possible for a person to have too many friends. But what does that even mean?
Being friends with someone means interacting them on a regular basis, spending time with them, and being there for them when they need you. You dedicate your time, attention, energy to your friends, and if you have too many friends, you will eventually experience relationship overload and discover that you nave no time and energy left for yourself. Here are the signs that you have more friends than you can handle:
- your schedule is packed, and you still have to neglect some of your friends because you have absolutely no time for them;
- you can't remember when was the last time you enjoyed an evening by yourself;
- communication with people exhausts you even if you're an outgoing extravert;
- you suddenly realize it's been ages since you've heard from some of the people you consider your friends, and it has never occurred to you to contact them first;
- you find it hard to meet everyone's expectations;
- you have to choose between bachelor(ette) parties/bridal showers/birthday parties and spend too much money on birthday and wedding gifts;
- too many people call/text/IM you while you're trying too work;
- you have fear of missing out.
The bottom line is, it is possible to have too many friends. At some point, you will have to prioritize one friend over the other. You can't have a lot of close friends, but you can still have your 150 acquaintances, according to Robin Dunbar.
- What to Do If You Have No Friends, How to Set Boundaries in a Friendship?, What to Do When Your Friends Don't Like Each Other, 5 Unspoken Rules of Friendship