Here's How Many 'Best Friends' The Average Person Has
All humans have wondered at some point if the number of best friends they have is the same as everyone else's. You've probably seen those pictures of 10 girls always hanging out and thought, does anyone really have that many close friends? It's in our nature to compare ourselves to what others are doing, and friendship is one of those things.
Well, for those who can't stop wondering, Snapchat's newly released Friendship Report provides all the answers you've ever had about best friends. They surveyed a diverse group of 10,000 participants from countries all around the world, including the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and others, about what their friendships look like.
How many best friends is it normal to have?
Globally, people reported an average of four best friends, while those from the United States have a little less at an average of three best friends. As for when this best friend was found, the average age across the world was 21, after high school and their early college years.
As for regular friends, globally the average number of people was about seven, and when it came to acquaintances, the average number globally shot up to 20. People like "Instagram friends" may fall under the acquaintances bracket.
What qualities people are looking for in friends.
Being natural sharers, millennials were found to want as many friends as possible, more than any other age group.
Personality-wise, the most important qualities people look for in a friend are honesty and authenticity. There were some interesting location-specific preferences as well though: For example, people in India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia valued friends who are "intelligent and cultured," whereas Americans cared more about finding friends who are "non-judgmental." For Gen Z Americans in particular cared about having connections that are diverse, with 24% of them reporting a want for more diverse friendships.
Male vs. female friendships.
While society commonly portrays female friendships as a series of real conversations, male friendships are often still seen as more surface level. Snapchat did find a slight trend validating those stereotypes, with women being slightly more likely to just want to sit and enjoy each other's company while men tended to prefer outside stimuli when they hung out (e.g., go to a bar or play a game together).
Yet, trends show that the dynamic of male friendships has significantly changed in recent years as men have become more open to expressing their feelings and thoughts. When men and women were asked what activities they most frequently do with their friends, "sit and talk" was the most popular for both genders, at 65% of women and 57% of men. Communication is the common glue of friendships, even when you're not together, as talking on the phone was the second most common friendship activity, with 58% of women and 51% of men picking it.
"We tend to think of women's friendships as being much more intimate than men's, and there are certainly some meaningful differences," therapist and friendship researcher Miriam Kirmayer told Snapchat. "One of the shifts we are seeing is that men are becoming more aware of, and comfortable with, their need for social connection and intimacy within their friendships. In many cases, it is also increasingly common for men to seek out emotional and physical closeness in their platonic friendships." Everyone wants close friends they can talk to, after all.
And by the way, 33% of Americans said their best friend was of the "opposite" gender.
How and what people share with their friends.
Millennials are by far the most share-happy of any generation. When participants were asked if they would share different topics with their friends, in each category millennials were the least likely to keep something to themselves. The most private topic for them seemed to be money, with 17% not wanting to share their financial concerns with their friends. Similarly, 15% of millennials avoided discussing their mental health with friends, 12% didn't talk about their love life, and 11% specifically declined to discuss their relationship issues with friends.
Gen Z was actually even more private: 27% don't discuss their relationship issues with friends, 21% don't talk about their love life at all, and 23% keep their mental health to themselves.
Though millennials and Gen Z individuals were both raised in the digital age, their comfort levels for discussing things with friends are quite different. "What you have to understand is that millennials are the Facebook and MySpace generation. Their connection to the emergence of social media was with those platforms, and those platforms are all about networks," Chloe Combi, journalist and author of Generation Z: Their Voices, Their Lives, told Snapchat. "It was exhilarating for them to be able to spread out far and connect with this vast network of people via their immediate circle." As for Gen Z, she said, "If you think about Snapchat or TikTok, they're not about a vast network; they're more about you and what you want to focus on."
Though what they'll share differs, the study showed how important in-person interactions still are to both generations with 50% of millennials and 45% of Gen Z reporting feeling loved after spending time with friends face to face. In contrast, just 33% of millennials and Gen Z felt loved after interacting with friends online.
Brought up on social media, young people today are at ease with making and connecting with friends through a screen. An open generation, they share their lives with friends and followers while keeping a small group of people close. With so many ways to interact, millennials have found a way to balance in-person and virtual methods of support and love in their friendships.
Sarah Fielding is a freelance writer based in New York City. Covering a range of topics with a focus on mental health, sex, and relationships, her work has appeared at Healthline, The Huffington Post, Men's Health, INSIDER, Bustle, NYLON, and more. Fielding received her bachelor's in international fashion and business management from FIT, and also spent time living in Italy and Australia, writing as she traveled. She's the co-founder of Empire Coven, a space for highlighting trailblazing women across New York.