In 1992, a guy named Dunbar published a theory that a human can only maintain 150 (148 to be exact) stable relationships. 150 friends: the magic number, not to be exceeded, lest the quality of your relationships suffer.
Two years ago Dunbar’s theory was debunked, and other theories have circulated — some stating that the real number is much higher, and others suggesting that the number is impossible to determine.
I’d like to propose a separate theory: attempting to calculate the optimal number of friends is a profoundly stupid use of time that could have been spent making friends.
It reminds me of a really dumb thought I once caught myself having:
Years ago I joined a gym with the intention of adding muscle. My coach was the same age as I, but super ripped, as you might expect.
One day when I was nonchalantly admiring his biceps, my eyes were drawn to the skin in front of his underarms, which was ravaged by stretch marks. You know the thing I’m taking about — you’ve seen it on The Rock and just about anyone else with giant muscles. The small price one pays for getting ripped.
“Oh no” I thought to myself. “Should I really be here? I don’t want those stretch marks on me.”
Then I slapped myself back to reality. “Bro”, I said to myself. “You weigh 145 pounds wet. You are in ZERO danger of having those stretch marks any time soon.”
And this is how I feel about people who worry about having too many friends.
Most people are in ZERO danger of having too many friends, and that’s sad. We are experiencing peak suicide rates and a loneliness epidemic. Research shows that loneliness causes cognitive decline and heart disease… and heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans.
And those are just the health implications. The personal and professional benefits of social connection are much more fun to talk about. More friends, better jobs, bigger brains, stronger community, more money, more fun.
It has been estimated that ~80% of new jobs are achieved via personal connection. We could debate that percentage, but why? It's not difficult to observe human connection as the main component in filling important leadership positions and advancing careers.
What's the optimal number of friends? Who cares? For most of us, more is better.
Be kind. Look out for lonely people. Introduce people to each other. Help others get jobs. Share your hobbies. Give compliments in the street.
Make more friends. If you accidentally make too many, consider yourself blessed. There are worse problems to have.