What are friends for?” This isn’t a rhetorical question. Friendship is one of life’s most important features, and one too often taken for granted.
The human desire for companionship may feel boundless, but research suggests that our social capital is finite—we can handle only so many relationships at one time. Social scientists have used a number of ingenious approaches to gauge the size of people’s social networks; these have returned estimates ranging from about 250 to about 5,500 people. (An undergraduate thesis from MIT focusing exclusively on Franklin D. Roosevelt, a friendly guy with an especially social job, suggested that he might have had as many as 22,500 acquaintances.) Looking more specifically at friendship, a study using the exchange of Christmas cards as a proxy for closeness put the average person’s friend group at about 121 people.