What would life be without friends? It sounds like a world that nobody would want any part of. Sadly, according to a recent study, you may already be living in it. Scientists claim that as many as 50% of the people we call our friends don’t feel the same way about us.
Friends are an essential part of our lives. They offer advice and support in times of hardship and cheer us on from the sidelines when we achieve our ambitions. A life without friends doesn’t bear thinking about – which makes a recent study all the more distressing.
According to scientists at Tel Aviv University, most of the people that we consider friends don’t feel the same way about us. This could be up to half the number of people that we call our friends.
You’re acquaintances, sure – but there’s a long way to travel from there to genuine friendship. Fall and break your leg, and a friend will drive you to the nearest hospital. Anybody else is more likely to chuckle at your clumsiness, and share photographs of your misfortune on Instagram.
Now, there’s a caveat here that bears noting. This study surveyed university students from around the world, which will have skewed the results a little. College is a unique time in anybody’s life, where people surround us at every turn.
Many of these are relationships of convenience, closer to drinking buddies and study partners. It’s different when we’re discussing the people that have stood by our side throughout the highs and lows that life has to offer for a decade or more.
All the same, it’s helpful to know who considers you a friend and who is tolerating your company because it benefits them in the short term.
How to tell if a friendship is real
Everybody has their definition of friendship. Human beings are complex creatures, after all, and we have varying needs. Some people think that the mark of a true friend is cheerfully answering a drunken phone call at 2 am and not telling you off for disturbing their beauty sleep. Others expect their friends to be available 24/7 to offer advice and a shoulder to cry on.
The study suggests assessing the discrepancy in social circles to decide whether somebody considers us a friend. Think of the number of people that you call your friends. Can you count them on both hands? That’s perfectly normal. Friendships should be forged through shared experience and emotional connection, and we only have so much energy to go around.
Now, think about the people that you consider your friends. Do they have similar numbers around them? If so, your friendship is probably genuine. It’s easy to tell if that’s the case – ask them to lend you money.
We’re kidding, of course, but it’s an interesting perspective. The results of the study warn us against counting too heavily on a person with an entourage of hundreds that only gets in touch to bolster the number of attendees at their birthday party.
Recognizing a one-sided friendship
Acknowledging that friendship is one-sided can be painful. It’s bruising to the ego when we realize that we don’t matter to somebody as much as we thought we did. All the same, it’s better to acknowledge this as early as possible. It will be even worse if you only discover that you cannot rely on somebody when you need them.
Regain discusses the critical warning signs of a one-sided relationship. Take a moment to think about the people that you call your friends. If they tick more than one of these boxes, it might be time to reassess your dynamic.
You have to make the running
You’re the one that always has to call or text first, and if you don’t make plans to hang out, it would never happen. Maybe they’re just a bit scatty, and everybody gets the same treatment – or, more likely, you’re too low on their list of priorities to think of you.
They cancel plans with you to spend time with other people
This could be other friends, their significant other, or their favorite pet. Emergencies happen, and things come up. If this is a constant theme, however, it’s unlikely that they’re just unlucky.
They’re not there for you
Perhaps the most vital sign of a one-sided friendship is a failure to reciprocate support. If they call you whenever they’re down in the dumps, short of a date for the weekend, or need to borrow something, but always seem busy when you need the same level of support, it’s a huge red flag.
It’s fine to keep a handful of acquaintances in your life. Some people have things to offer that we occasionally need, and you don’t need to live in each other’s pockets to benefit from that. Just don’t build your life around such people.
Why do we consider these people our friends?
Don’t beat yourself up if you have realized that you have been calling acquaintances friends. We’re all guilty of this. The simple fact is that human beings are pack animals, and we’re always looking for a tribe.
Also, people sometimes grow apart. Life moves on, and when we change careers, move to new towns and start families, our frames of reference switch. Some friendships are perfect encapsulations of a moment in time and aren’t required to last forever.
Social media has also skewed our view of friendship. Just because Facebook says you have 1,057 friends, that doesn’t make it so. Ask yourself, would your quality of life be impacted if you never heard from the High School bully in your network again?
Friends should be people that enhance bring a smile to our faces and that we genuinely care about, not individuals that we consider ourselves to compete with.
If you’re worried that you’re subject to a one-sided friendship, it’s quickly resolved. Talk to the other person, calmly, and reasonably. Explain how you feel, and their reaction will tell you all you need to know. If they’re mortified and promise to step up their game, then great.
If they laugh in your face and tell you to stop being needy, that’s fine too. You know that this person is not on your wavelength, and you won’t be able to count on them when the chips are down. That’s not a friendship that’s worth fighting.
Friendship is important. We all need people that we’re not romantically involved with to laugh at our jokes, act as a sounding board, and call us out when we’re crossing a line. Just ensure that these friends feel the same way about you. There will be countless people that do so – it’s your job to discern them from the casual acquaintances that also populate our lives.
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