What’s your number? No, not that number. I mean, how many friends do you really have? Unlike the one you first thought of, you don’t have to divide by three to avoid awkward questions. Instead, the people on this list are the ones who know the real answer, who answer the phone when you call them crying about them.
If I’m ruthless about who I know and what they’d do for me, I come up with 40 people. That struck me as absurdly high until I asked one of the people on my list the same question. When she answered with “about 400,” I realized maybe I don’t know friendship as well as I thought.
I think there’s a general consensus that quality is better than quantity in friendship.
But in the social world built by Mark Zuckerberg that my peers and I inhabit, there does seem to be a corollary that quantity can equal quality, if the number is big enough.
But, maybe it’s just my definitions that are skewed?
After all, I know plenty of people who derive what seems like a disturbing amount of their self-esteem from social media; the followers, the likes and comments and shares they get. Is the person who comments on every post a better friend than the one who only occasionally likes a photo? It feels more like we are like kings, with courtiers currying favors. Except we are in turn courtiers in their courts as well. Less a monarchy than a Monty Python sketch really, but more valid than any Myers-Briggs personality test nonsense at least.
But while the farcical nature of social media is amusing and more than a little addictive, I couldn’t stand to be in such a complex web of mutual validation anymore.
So I did what I always do when I feel trapped and confined: I cut all those strings. From 4,000 plus “friends” on Zuck’s wheel of ego torture, I dropped down to a little more than 40 people.
And, more importantly, I had a clear, tangible list of people who I can feel certain I care about and care about me in turn. Friendship is more than quid pro quo but that doesn’t mean I needed to dilute myself by a factor of 100.
My Facebook slash-and-burn tactic was extreme. Maybe I’ll regret it, maybe it’s inevitable that a new forest of thousands of “friends” will form again, maybe even with a lot of the same people. But, for now, I love being able to count half of my true friends on my fingers and toes, and know that I can count on any one of those 40 to add up the other half for me.