New research reveals that having more friends isn’t always a better thing. Consider how many friends you currently have and how you feel about that number/numbers. If the number of friends you have increases, are you becoming more attractive to others as a potential friend? Or are you becoming less attractive? If you had to make a guess right now, what would you say?
Now, let’s turn this question around: if you could choose between someone who has a large number of friends or someone who has a handful of friends, which person would you rather have as a friend?
Who do we prefer to have as a friend?
A team of researchers explored these questions in a series of studies, and their findings highlight an intriguing contradiction between what we assume will make us more inviting as a friend and what we actually like best in others .
In both online and real-world situations, researchers have found that we tend to assume we’ll seem more attractive to others if we have more friends, but when it comes to what we want in a friend, we tend to lean towards people with a bit smaller number of friends. They called it the “ paradox of the number of friends ”.
Why does this inconsistency occur?
Why would we seem to apply different standards to others? The main explanation put forward by researchers is that we humans tend to have a selfish point of view that leads us to assume that others will rate us as a potential friend the same way we rate ourselves. In other words, because we anticipate that we will appear more attractive to people if we have more friends, we project this notion onto others and assume that they will rate us the same way. Also, when we think about what we want in a friend, we are more likely to want a connection with someone who can put more effort into cultivating and maintaining a friendship and who is available to spend time together. As’we are inclined to take this into account and favor people with a somewhat smaller number of friends .
That being said, the researchers also noted that there could be other possible reasons why there is an incongruity between the number of friends we think people want us to have and the number of friends we want our friends to have. As an example, we might opt for people with a relatively smaller circle of friends, as we crave social avoidance. Otherwise, we may think that we will have a better social position if our friends have a more limited number of friends than us.
Or, we might want to see ourselves in a favorable light and so we focus on how a bigger group of friends can make us look good, putting aside our awareness that a buddy with a bigger network of friends is not necessarily what we are looking for. Notwithstanding these other potential underlying reasons, investigators have found evidence that we generally assume that others will like us more if we have a few more friends , and ignore the fact that other people tend to feel the same. we are also inclined to form friendships with people who have a comparatively smaller group of friends.
As a result, as researchers have mentioned, if we try to give the impression that we have an abundance of friends in an effort to boost our attractiveness, we may be sabotaging the very purpose we try to achieve. So if you have a smaller circle of friends and feel self-conscious, or think you need to project a different image, you might want to consider the possibility that you actually have more appeal to your friends than you think.