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HomemilastwordA Handful of Friends

A Handful of Friends

Facebook tells me I have lots of friends but my closest either don’t use social media or rarely post. We crave affection and receive affirmation from ‘likes’. We want tangible evidence that people like us… that everyone is our BFF. And the people with the most friends and who post their daily minutia must be the friendliest besties of all, right?!

Social media platforms are founded on connectivity. They give us the ability to connect with our friends and acquaintances immediately, no matter where they are in the world. The average Facebook user has 338 friends, however, most of us would only choose to socialise with 10 per cent of them.

Our ‘friends’, ‘followers’ or ‘fans’ reflect an unreal impression of who we perceive ourselves to be. As a result, many users on social media now suffer from Fomo (Fear of Missing Out), the phenomenon that causes us to grieve if we miss out on an event and propels us to interact with an ever-widening circle of people online. We post the best of ourselves. It’s only our nearest and dearest, our closest friends, that really know our real selves.

Studies show we only have a handful of friends at any one time. Oxford University researcher Robin Dunbar wrote twenty years ago that the average person can maintain 150 meaningful social relationships, however, early last year he concluded that of those relationships we can only count five people as our best friends. The next layer, he said, included 10 slightly less close friendships, followed by a layer of 35 close acquaintances and finally 100 acquaintances.

Your friends at work are one of the main reasons you enjoy the work you do

Today, with so many ways to stay in touch, it’s a lot harder to maintain healthy relationships. It’s not enough to say ‘happy birthday’ on a friend’s page or to ‘like’ someone’s photo. These are the support mechanisms to keep the friendship breathing but we still need to put the work in. We’re not obliged to our friends in the way we are to our significant other, our families or our jobs for that matter.

As we get older and work demands increase we spend more time with our work colleagues. It’s these people, who we share the same piece of carpet with for 40 hours a week, that in many cases become some of our closest friends. We do life with them. We know what they like to eat and where they eat their lunch. We build bonds with each other through shared knowledge. We complain with them about life outside and inside work.

Workplace experts have measured all manner of things to see what increases engagement as well as the bottom line. They looked at salaries, feedback to employees being mentored and suggest that “meaningful work, leisure time, and positive emotions can’t hold a candle to relationships. Those at work whom we see daily have the potential to increase our happiness as much as earning $100,000 more per year.”1

Your friends at work are one of the main reasons you enjoy the work you do. They make the day fly by and they suffer along with you as you work long hours towards a deadline.

They’re the glue that binds you to your work. What would life be like without them?

1. Lydia Dishman. Fast Company. Why Having Friends at Work is so Important. Sep 2015


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