“In love, two is company and three’s a crowd, but in friendship ten is the magic number” according to a report by Fiona McRae of the Daily Mail. The question is how close are we to those with social networks and how important are these friendships in the current climate.
The report highlights studies by Dr Richard Tunney of Nottingham University showing that those with 5 to 10 friends in their close circle will be happiest and content in life, some say potentially adding to our longevity.
It would seem that communities, teams, and above all close friendships not only give us comfort and moral support in troubled times but pulling together our resources and contacts can help with entrepreneurial activities and job hunting more than ever.
However, although it can help, it seems that adding more ’friends’ doesn’t particularly increase our happiness. Today’s GenY and upcoming Z’s take comfort in being seen to be part of a wide social network, giving them the acceptance and approval they need from their community and peer groups. But are the 200+ contacts on their Google Talk, Messenger, Beebo or Facebook superfluous to their needs? How well do they know them? How many have they met or spoken with on a regular basis? Many Generation X and Y are spending their evenings in darkened rooms, or with their Blackberry’s and iPhones on the train, texting and chatting online with their virtual community but as Ryan Healy commented earlier this year, there are a ‘plethora of weak ties’ yet few strong friendships in the social networking arena. Many are starting to ask just how superficial these connections are.
For some, particularly GenY mothers, the internet is a lifeline to sanity, connecting them to an otherwise remote outside world. It is in other similar situations that having these networks, no matter how superficial, can be very enriching. From the Tunney study it would seem that women are statistically more likely to have a closer and stronger group of friends than men, who may have more connections but form less deep bonds.
Despite all these ties and ever increasing networks, in the US there are now ’friendships’ and ’social confidence’ workshops helping the youth of today to make sense of how to build stronger (perceived) healthier relationships.
Writer Nadira Hira comments “there is something about actually being together, talking all night and even getting in [arguments] that can’t be replicated on a laptop or iPhone.”
True close friendship appears to be the key to happiness and support, quality not quantity; “a thousand weak ties cannot replace a strong one”. These true friendships still need to be worked upon like any long-term partnership. As ever it seems that adversity often pulls people together but the key is lasting friendship’; as one blog reader commented “the truest friendship will survive inconvenient honesty”. Although studies show that friends made at any time of our lives can become true loyal enduring friends, those bonds developed before our thirties seemingly most often stay for life. So our Gen Ys and Z’s need to really think about who these people are going to be.
In times of recession, it is those friends that can provide encouragement, support, a sounding board, reasoning, trust, loyalty, protection and of course pleasure, that can help see us through. It’s time to strengthen those friendships and pick up the phone, time for giving not just taking and as they say you never know when those closest to you will be the most valuable.