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Is it possible to have too many friends? | Is It Just Me Or?

Hanging out with a group of friends can be a great time, but for introverted individuals, it can also be exhausting. 

In the 1900s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that the “magic number” of connections — both friends and family — is 150. However, one may be able to maintain 150 meaningful connections but only consider 15 people as good friends. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

While I’m not saying that life overall is harder for introverted people, I can still understand how limiting their social lives may seem. As someone who has shed their ultra-introverted shell — and hasn’t yet figured out where they now land on the spectrum — I have had both an abundance of time spent comfortably by myself and with more friends than I know what to do with. 

Over the last two years, my socializing style has changed greatly. From dealing with depression to finding my social footing through therapy, I’ve gone from having two friends to more than a dozen. Now that I have seen both sides, it’s hard to figure out what is healthy and sustainable for me. 

This is a very individual and subjective question, so I do not expect to give a blanket answer that everyone can take as sage advice. However, I hope to offer an analysis of my lived experience as well as the research and words of authorities on the matter. 

One of the biggest strategies to prevent oneself from the feeling of wanting to ignore texts, calls and any other form of social invitation is moderation. A 2020 Michigan State University study found that friendships achieved more support and experienced less strain when associated with low feelings of obligation. Keeping pressure on friendships can make something lovely go sour. 

Once people start to shoulder friendships like burdens, the joy is stripped from these connections. While checking in out of care can be touching for all parties involved, feeling forced to interact or respond to friends can turn genuine interest into something to say just because it feels like a nice thing.  

Although feelings of obligation are quite personal and can be self-imposed, it is interesting to see how,  as people experience substantive obligation, they feel largely negative impacts on their well-being and their relationships. 

The increased use of social media also contributes to feeling burnt out by digital connections and leaves less time and energy for real-world relationships. An overload of online conversations and messages can be equally as tiring for introverted individuals as keeping up with all those people offline. So juggling two different mediums of communication can be far more overwhelming and drain one’s social battery even quicker. 

It is imperative to have a healthy amount of alone time without feeling obligation or guilt towards canceling plans or not seeing friends often. To be a friend means understanding others, and understanding oneself and how to budget time between platonic relationships and personal time. 

Friendship and your value as a friend are not determined by the quantity of relationships, but rather by the quality and the strength of each connection. 

More introverted people need to spend a greater portion of time in smaller groups or by themselves compared to their more outgoing peers. With that small amount of time left to spend cultivating friendships, it is harder to maintain dozens of relationships. Keeping a smaller circle may allow for deeper and more fulfilling connections, which can be just as — if not more — meaningful as having a larger group of friends to spend time with. 

The question in the headline may seem like a lucky problem to have, but for some people, it can be the truth. Stretching oneself thin can lead to more guilt in friendships and lower their quality. It is important to look inward into one’s friendships and reflect on how they make you feel and whether they are worth keeping in your 150.

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One Comment

  1. I feel like the question which was stated at the start of the passage could also cover the extroverts in fact should cover them more as they are the ones which too many friendships, talking about having too many friends I think you could have different sets of friends over the time depending on the place you are in but you will always have limited set of good friends.