How many friends can we afford?

How many friends can we afford?

In their song “Too many friends”, the music band Placebo sing:

I got too many friends

Too many people that I’ll never meet

And I’ll never be there for

I’ll never be there for

As a teenager, I thought that the more contacts in my phone’s contact list, the more friends I had, even if these were people I was not truly in touch with and probably met once in a blue moon, or not at all. I remember comparing the number of our contacts with classmates. The person with the most was the most popular. Oh, the youth. Little did we know back then. 

It did take me many years, and quite a few failed friendships, to comprehend what a real friend is or should be. What helped me understand that? To get older means to become busier and more stressed about life. More things on your to-do list, more schedules, more working around the clock. Less free time. As a working person, I found myself trying desperately to fit all my social interactions within a weekend so that I would not be perceived as antisocial or unfriendly and therefore excluded. I was not careful and mindful with my time, and I could not carry on like that as the constant stress and over-effort were wearing me down. It is exhausting to be there for everyone. This dead-end called for action. I had to dare changes even if some people disapproved. Well, not everyone has to like us.

By starting my minimalistic journey some years ago, I recognised that I should also minimise my so-called friendships, should I want to obtain or maintain meaningful and lifelong relationships. I needed to be more aware of how I chose to use my limited and valuable free time and with whom. My focus had to shift to my real friends. But what does real friend mean? What defines a genuine friendship, and what distinguishes it from mainstream social contact?

Are chemistry, good vibe and convenience enough for a friendship? These are undoubtedly essential factors but not sufficient for enduring human relationships. Just because I meet someone every day at work, spend a good deal of time with them and get along, this does not qualify us as friends. Often, these friendships are based on convenience, as we do not have to organise a date outside the work, we see these people every day, and we have a pleasant time chatting; we save time and effort. It is handy.

Real, quality friendships are based on hard work, continuous effort, compromises and goodwill. It is the purpose that delineates them. I know it does not sound so romantic, somewhat cynical, I admit; however, worthy and long-lasting things in life are high-maintenance. An honest friendship focuses on the role of a friend in our life, whether we honour them the time, energy and attention they require and what we receive in return. As fun as it may sound, friendships are not a one-night-stand where you get momentary pleasure, but no further commitment is attached to them. 

Time, several tries, and failure did it take me to realise that friendship, like many things in life, is a matter of quality and not quantity. I maintain several social acquaintanceships, which I sincerely enjoy and consider essential. Nevertheless, I only have a handful of good, honest, kind-hearted, generous, enthusiastic and genuine friends who want the best for me, are by my side in good and evil and with whom I share the same values. We might not agree on everything, and we surely nurture different viewpoints on matters, but our values match. These values are the glue that keeps us together.

According to The School of Life (, the ideal friend should present the following virtues or characteristics: to know how to show weakness, to be genuinely interested in our sorrows and difficulties, to be reassuring, to help us build our self-understanding, to help us think and to help us like ourselves. In a few words, to bring out a better version of ourselves. Does it sound much to ask for? Yes. But that’s the point. 

My days are full, and my time is precious. I have chosen to use it wisely and devote it to people that have earned this privilege, to people that matter. I have deliberately decided to be highly selective but not antisocial. This acknowledgement has saved me the frustration and disappointment hollow or convenient relationships bring in life. I use my precious free time to become a better friend to my best friends, so our time together is indeed worth it.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *