HEAR YE, HEAR YE, all you Facebook, MySpace and Twitter members (which includes me). According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, if you are accumulating friends like acorns for the coming winter, you are wasting your time, spinning your wheels, running in place. He says “the brain can’t handle many more than 150 friends, so lining up thousands of them on social networks is a pretty meaningless exercise.” Actually I think 150 is rather ambitious. My list of friends is much, much smaller than that and I still feel guilty at the end of every month because I’ve forgotten someone’s birthday or anniversary.
This poses the questions, how many friendships do we actually want and how many can we keep healthy? In a recent article in MORE magazine, Sally Koslow quotes—and makes—some rather startling statements, with which you may or may not agree.
1. The average person now replaces half their friends every 7 years. (It seems seven years is significant in other ways too. I’ve heard couples start to “itch” at this point also.)
2. Many close bonds are marriages of convenience based on mutual need rather than deep regard. (Hmmm. Not a nice thought)
3. People do not have friends at work…they have “work neighbors.” Once you move out of the “neighborhood” you’re no longer thought about or included. (Now that’s harsh. Is it true?)
I found these “facts” very distressing because, upon reflection, I realized I’ve lost touch with most of my childhood AND college buddies. There were no major blow ups, but the relationships simply died a natural death. My moving almost a thousand miles away was perhaps the final nail in the coffin. John Steinbeck says, in his book East of Eden , “There’s nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps. If you can’t see or hear or touch a man, it’s best to let him go.” It also didn’t help that one of the first books on the subject upon which I stumbled was The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women’s True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned out or Faded Away. Wow. I read a few and got a bit down, so to cheer myself up I decided to list all the “buddy” books and movies I could think of. I’m glad to say that wasn’t very difficult because good and lasting friendships are a prevailing theme in literature and in Hollywood . Check these out:
Books: Of Mice and Men, Fried Green Tomatoes, Frog and Toad Together, The Red Hat Club, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Siserhood, Kite Runner, Bridge to Terabithia, The Wind in the Willows, The Joy Luck Club
I’m sure there are many more. In the middle of the night, I will sit up suddenly and yell, because I thought of a good title I didn’t include. However I started the list—maybe you can add some titles of your own. If you do, I’ll be your friend.
*Best Friend Forever