Quality over quantity, a phrase all of our loved ones drilled into our minds is one that I find myself referring back to. The quality of what you have will always surpass the quantity.
The pressure we place on ourselves to have more friends, attend more parties, and fill our mental lists of friends should be nonexistent. Scientifically, it’s written into our genetic makeup that our closest friends are enough.
Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to build my mental list of people I chose to associate with. I’ve expected myself to find comfort in a larger crowd of people after spending so much time alone over the past two years, but I end up feeling my loneliest in the largest groups of people.
British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, discovered what is now known as the “Dunbar’s number.” Dunbar’s number is a cognitive limit to the number of friends an individual can maintain stable social relationships with, according to The New York Times. Dunbar separates these numbers into groups.
An individual can maintain 150 casual friendships, this would be considered our largest social sphere, the total number of people your brain can track and keep up with.
The next group is 50, your close friends, ones that you may talk to frequently but don’t make the cut to be called your closest friends.
Lastly, our innermost circle consists of only five people. You are mentally limited to maintain a stable and healthy social relationship with only five people.
These five or less people are who we never feel lonely around. They’re more than your outermost circle of people you think you have a connection with or a “friendship” with over social media.
Having a genuine connection with people lies in the foundational principles or morals we share, not in how often we find ourselves in the same room. Being able to accept and appreciate someone’s authentic self is what friendship is about.
Although I feel the compulsion to stress over the endless cycle of unanswered hellos and plans left unattended, I don’t feel as lonely knowing it’s cognitively impossible to maintain the friendships I tell myself I should be able to.
If you too are feeling a little more lonely than usual, understand that finding more people to surround yourself with won’t fill that void. Attempt to look into your inner circle and appreciate the few that you have that genuine connection with, those will be the ones to lean on and offer your endless energy to. These are the people whose love is sufficient enough to increase your sense of belonging and purpose.
Move away from the concept that the more people you surround yourself with promises you happiness or fulfillment. This happiness you want will never be up to the number of your friends. It’s in the quality of who you chose to be friends with.