Lifehacker recently linked to an interesting article that ran on the BBC about friendship. “What’s the ideal number of friends” reported that most people have five very close friends, 10 more in a pretty close network, 35 more in a looser network, and then 100 on the outside that fall into the wee-bit-more-than-acquaintance category. This would mean each of us has about 150 friends in our social scene.
I found this interesting and plausible. My numbers are a little higher in the outer circles (I’m a social butterfly), but almost spot-on for the very close and pretty close network numbers.
However, mid-way through the article is a shocking but brief story about someone who regulates his friendships like inventory:
A newspaper columnist once told of her shock when, having struck up a rapport with a man over dinner, she was told at the end of the meal he had no vacancies for friends. He was operating a “one-in, one-out” policy. Six months later she received a card stating he was now available for friendship.
That’s an extreme example but many people view their friendships scientifically and regulate them accordingly.
When I first read these paragraphs, I was flabbergasted. What gall this man had! Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was just saying what many people do subconsciously. When one friendship fizzles out, we fill it with a new friendship with someone else. We might not send cards announcing “you can now be my friend,” but we shift our priorities and move people around between the circles.
I think we all agree that a bad friend can cause clutter in our lives, but what about too many good friends? Can you have so many close friends that maintaining the friendships can interfere with other areas of your life?
What do you think of the one-in, one-out rule applied to friendship? Can your life be cluttered with too many close friends? I’m still mulling this around in my brain and I would love to read what you have to say.