Why You Need LESS Friends

In Advice and Encouragement, Relationships, Single by Debra Fileta16 Comments

I have 987 friends.

At least, that’s what my Facebook Page tells me.

I was scrolling through my list of friends the other day, and made some observations: 

Some of these “friends”, I’ve met one time in my entire life.

At least 5 of those friends, I’ve never actually met face-to-face.

Other friends, I haven’t spoken to since high school…which was….a really long time ago.

And others still I have to do a double-take to actually figure out how I even know them.

But, according to my Facebook page, these are all my “friends”.

It’s kind of funny, when you think about it, how loosely we use the word friend. Thanks to social media, a friend can be a stranger, a relative, a spouse, a lifelong pal – and everything in between.

But I find it ironic with how saturated we are with “friendships”, living in a technological age where we’re connected with the largest amount friends we’ve ever had  – that so very many people are feeling extremely, and utterly alone.

As a professional counselor, and relationship blogger, I get the privilege and enormous responsibility of hearing from people across the country and world. And through the thousands of emails I receive, it’s impossible to be inattentive to the amount of people reaching out to me with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Even in a crowd, it’s easy to be lonely, isn’t it? And sometimes, the larger the crowd of “friends” – the lonelier we can feel.

As I’ve been thinking through this dilemma recently, I realized that one of the problems is that we’ve taken the word “friend” out of context. We apply it to too many people, and too many relationships. And at the end of the day, when everyone is our “friend” – we find that we’ve lost something really significant in cultivating meaningful relationships.

I was chatting with a young man over a Skype Session, and in our session I asked him to draw a social map. A social map is something I learned to do in graduate school, and it’s basically the idea that there are “three rings” of relationships in a person’s life.

The first circle, is the “core group”. These are the people who are the closest to your heart. They’re the ones you’ve laughed with, cried with, and walked through the mountains and valleys of life with. They know everything about you, and you can trust them with the deepest and most meaningful parts of your life and heart.

The second circle, are your “level 2 friends”. These are the people who you may see and interact with on a regular basis. Maybe you’ll have coffee, or grab lunch with them. Maybe you’ll sit with them at church, or hang out to watch the game. They’re people who are in your life physically – but maybe not FULLY in your life emotionally, because there are just some things that you don’t quite feel comfortable sharing. But even so, there’s the potential there for a deeper relationship.

The third circle is  what we would call your “acquaintances” or level 3 friends. These are the people who are on the peripheral of your life. You see them in passing, say hello to them at work, and chit chat with them about the weekend. You pass the time with small talk, and polite gestures. You may see them at a gathering or an event, and maybe even get together with them infrequently. But for the most part, they remain on the fringe.

So back to my session with this guy. He shared with me that he was feeling really lonely, but didn’t understand why that is, because according to him – he was a really well-liked guy with a ton of friends.

But when I asked him to draw his social map, something really interesting came to light.

His life was packed with level 2 and 3 friends, but there was really no one he could think to put in his inner circle.

He had so many people “in his life”, but really no one in his life, at all.

That’s when I realized that part of the problem with our social media society is that we have WAY TOO MANY FRIENDS, yet hardly any meaningful relationships at all.

We spend hours of our time commenting on photos, or posting Happy Birthday messages to people we hardly interact with in real life, and often fail to take the time and energy it takes to cultivate real relationships in real life.

Because you know what? Facebook relationships are EASY. They’re easy because in the world of Facebook friendships, you can give at your own time, take at your own time, and interact at your own pace. You can present yourself however you want to. You share your best recipes, your best photos, and your best moments. Not only that, but all from the comfort of your own home (or bathroom- you know you do it)! With a click of a finger, you can give affirmation. With a push of a button, you can “interact”.  

And if for some reason along the path of clicking and commenting, you decide you no longer want to interact with someone, or maybe their posts start rubbing you the wrong way, with a click of a button, you can choose to ignore them or even, no longer be friends! It’s that simple.

But real life….real relationships are not so mapped out and cookie cutter. They’re messy. They’re inconvenient. They’re filled with good emotions and bad. They require time. They require energy. And they require an authentic look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.

They cause you to step out of your “comfort zone” and be real…be real with your heart, your imperfections, your weaknesses, and your struggles.

But in exchange for that authenticity, you gain true intimacy.  And only where there is true intimacy, can loneliness begin to disappear.

But you see, that’s why it’s so much easier to settle for fake relationships. That’s why it’s so much easier to invest in “clicking” rather than truly “connecting”.

But what if the only real cure for your loneliness is not having more friends – but having less. What if this year, you chose to invest deeply and give deliberately to the people God has placed in your life.

I remember the year I went through this transformation in my own life….the transformation of moving from more friends, to less friends. I felt like I was surrounded by acquaintances, but not one friend I could really call “my own”. It’s a strange place to be. I was feeling lonely, even though I was one of the most social people in my circle.

But that was the year God called me to concentrate and condense. To take the limited time, energy, and resources that I had, and invest myself in a few significant friendships that God had put in my life. It was time to get real. It was time to go deeper. And looking back, I will never regret it. Those friendships are some of the most significant ones I have in my life to this day!

What if this year becomes the year that you chose to commit to less friends, but in a more meaningful way? What if this is the year you decide to be real, authentic, and engaged with a few significant people in your life? What if this year, you chose intimacy over convenience?

Imagine how that could impact your life? Imagine how that could deepen your relationships.

Whoever you are and wherever you’re from – my prayer for you this year is that this would be the year with less friends, but in turn, far less loneliness.

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Comments

  1. This is quite revealing. Thanks a lot Debra. You are always a blessing. I’d however be glad if you can give practical steps on how to go about cultivating deep, meaningful relationships. Cos as it seems, I need to start from the scratch and I have no clue on how to move occupants of level 2 and 3 friendships to core. What if the investment I begin to make isn’t reciprocated, since a lot of people are in the same ‘friendless’ situation. I hope my questions are clear enough.

    1. Grace, I feel your pain and it sounds like you have a “fear of rejection.” I struggled with that a long time. I would suggest you ask God to lead you to those persons who are ready and willing to accept your friendship. But be warned: it could be those persons whom you least expect. From there, you start by inviting them out and having meaningful conversations with them that expose the real you. People appreciate authenticity. And they also appreciate when you are genuinely interested in them. So, ask questions about their lives that expose your caring nature.

    2. Author

      Great question, Grace. I think friendships and romantic relationships have a lot in common. It’s important to look for someone who reciprocates your friendship because friendship needs to be a two-way thing. So for me, when I was in that stage of deepening my friendships – I really chose to invest more in people who:

      1. I had a natural connection with.
      2. People who could challenge me spiritually.
      3. People who seemed to be investing back into me – ie initiating invitations, sharing their thoughts and feelings, starting conversations, inviting me over, etc.

      It’s wise of you to look for a two-way friendship – because I think those are the very best kind 🙂

  2. I’ve been OFF Facebook 3yrs this year and proud of it! I was missing out on my life. The relationships I do have are much richer for it! Thanks Debra for this and ALL articles!

  3. Mama you’re just talking about me! I don’t have much friends, and the ones that l have are not there for me ( just category 2 and 3) , and the worst part is that they haved caused me a lot of pain. But, Mama can real friends ( the category1) be possible? I have not known any!

    1. Author

      I believe so, Anison…..just like any relationship, though, it takes work and it takes you being deliberate to make those friendships happen. Also, be praying that the Lord will reveal to you the right kind of people to invest in. And that He would bring God-loving people into your life!

  4. This is a good start Debra for beginning the conversation of having this less friends model in life. Good article.

    Now you just need to write an article about how to do that and the steps to take forward to accomplish that.

    That would be an excellent article to read. 😊

    1. Author

      That’s a great idea, Parker….that’s a good idea for a follow up article.

      But for now, I think the bottom line is choosing who you will spend your time with and your emotions on – and taking initiative to ask those people to connect with you in a deliberate way. If you have 10 hours a week to socialize, those 10 hours are going to get filled intentionally, or unintentionally. Sometimes a little bit of planning and initiation can go a long way.

  5. Thanks Debra. I realize what my problem is. My closest or core friend is my Jr brother, I share almost everything about my life with him. I am a real introvert and sometimes I get overwhelmed with crowds. My best moments are the time I spend by myself. I find it very hard going out and making friends and so. This is a great article. But where can I really start. It has really been very hard for me

  6. Very timely!

    I just lost 80% of my “friends” after I went through intense illness. After 2 months, I’m still recovering, and I’ve made a massive purge of my social media involvement, which also resulted in an exodus of acquaintainces. The good thing is, I know how are truly reliable (my home church!) now. I wrote in depth about this experience, too:: http://www.fiftytwofaces.com/blog/2017/1/4/how-i-stopped-being-a-millennial-and-having-20-year-old-friends

    It left me very distrustful of people, which my ex says isn’t a bad thing since I’ve always been overly trusting anyway lol.

  7. As I was thinking on these different levels of friends…I have none in level 1 or 2 and very very few in 3. I am an outgoing person by nature, but I seem to find that people only take to that short term. I am a divorcee and I don’t do bars, my church doesn’t have a singles group or any other singles my age and therefore I stay to myself!!! And let me tell you it’s very lonely!
    It’s not like I haven’t tried to meet people or even go on a date, but is doesn’t seem to work! I don’t know how I could even get fewer friends when I basically have none now!
    I did like the article and it does make sense.

    Thanks for the blog

  8. Hi Debra – I got your workbook when you were out here in California at the Saddleback church – am I suppose to be receiving a daily email to go along with the lessons in the book? If so, please explain to me where I need to sign up for that email – thank you

  9. I appreciate you saying that God puts certain people into our lives for us to be good friends with. I was having a hard time believing that, so it was helpful to read that. It gives me more faith to find those people and trust that they are there and that God is leading me into more meaningful friendships.

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