Recently, The Royal Society Open Science published a study that shows the number of friends we have peaks at age 25 and then starts to decline until it levels out around age 45.
I’m glad to learn I’m not alone in this.
When I was younger, I was happy to pal around with people who shared my interests. I like dogs! I like that author! I love Radiohead too! As I’ve aged and my time has become more scarce, I’ve become much more discerning when it comes to choosing those with whom I spend my days.
Now, I am much more interested in people’s stories, values, and the size of their hearts, than their tastes in bands or food. I’ve forged some friendships based on shared interests, but only because those interests provided a window to their souls. For example, there is a small group of us who are connected through our mutual love of French antiques, grand hotels, and circa 2006 J. Crew. While we were drawn together at first by surface commonalities, we quickly discovered that we are all old souls who crave a return to elegance. We realized that many of us deliberately surround ourselves with beauty to offset some of the hardships we’ve survived, and that–more than our interests–is the basis for our friendship.
As I’ve aged, I realize that I like my own company, have a busy family life, and would much rather read a good book than spend time with people who drain my energy. I no longer have time for fair-weather friends, drama queens, or grief-glommers.
I see friends as the people with whom I choose to share my life. A smaller circle allows me to invest time and emotional energy in cultivating deeper friendships with the people I love.
I’m forever meeting interesting people and, with potential new friends, I take a catch and release approach. I’m quick to suggest coffee and then see where things flow from there. My litmus test for friendship is to ask myself if a potential friend makes me feel better or worse. Friends should make you feel safe and secure and loved. I no longer spend time on people who won’t support me in the bad times and cheer me on in the good. Life is too short.
These days, particularly with social media, there is pressure to have a posse; to have a wide group of people who will like what you do. But an entourage won’t necessarily catch you when you fall. Football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has this marvelous quote: “At the end of the day, you only need six people to carry your coffin.” Food for thought, that.
It’s not the number of friendships we have, but the nature of those friendships that matters. I’ll happily sacrifice likes on Instagram for a few kindred spirits who really have my back.