“We should search for friends as for good books. Happiness does not depend on their number and the fact they are curious, but by the fact that are few and good”, said Mateo Alemán, a Spanish writer. And the truth is that he was right, because with time we learn to love more, but fewer people.
It is certain that life experiences reduce progressively our circle of friends to include only a few, carefully selected people. It does not mean that we become insensitive or anti-social, but we are going to separate wheat from tares, and we finally understand that it’s not quantity that matters, but the quality of the relationships we build.
The years help to choose better
As we grow and get mature it also happens another phenomenon: our priorities are changing and we are more interested to surround ourselves with people who really matter, people who bring us something and look in the same direction. To the extent we have less left to live, we realize that time is a valuable asset and it is understandable that we want share it only with specific people. So, gradually, we reduce our circle of friends.
In this regard, a study conducted at the University of Rochester found that at age of 20 we give priority to the amount of friends over quality, and we feel good as well. But as years pass we start to give priority to quality rather than quantity. At the age of 30, having real friends helps us stay away from depression and loneliness, improving our emotional balance.
Friendship doubles your joys and halves sorrows
Throughout life our concept of friendship is changing. During childhood, all classmates are virtually our friends, but when we reach adolescence and youth we begin to select the group of friends, which turns into a closed circle, but with whom we feel a sense of belonging because we share same interests and values. In that period of life we are looking for our identity.
But later, around 30 years old, when we have found our place in the world and know what we want, we select better the persons we have around, we choose them according to what they bring and how make us feel. In that time we want to have close people who not only double our joy, but also help us ease pain. We want to have friends who understand us and make us feel that we are important to them.
By the time we learn to value friendship and become better friends
Over time not only we choose better our friends, but we also understand their importance. The experiences we lived shown us the importance of having a shoulder to cry on, someone who motivates us when no one else does, or just someone who is on our side.
Therefore, we compensate “friends” we go missing with deepest, mature and most challenging relationships. We love fewer people, but we love them the most, we compromise more. With these “soul friends” we create a deeper bond that not only stands the time proof, but also disagreements and differences of opinion. We can be angry with them, but we know they will always be on our side when we need them.
Certainly, in the world of social networks, where many are obsessed with the number of friends and even brag about how many followers they have, this is a message on which we should reflect.
Carmichael, Cheryl L.; Reis, Harry T. & Duberstein, Paul R. (2015) In your 20s it’s quantity, in your 30s it’s quality: The prognostic value of social activity across 30 years of adulthood. Psychology and Aging; 30(1): 95-105.