Why having fewer friends is better

21:32, May 13 2012

Friends are funny things. Some people collect them like stamps or Weet-Bix cards, while others gather just a handful of mates and keep them for life.

My mum hoards novelty teaspoons, shining them but never using them and I know a couple of people who procure friends in much the same way.

I think I may be part of their collection. The funny thing is, I don't hear much from them.

I'm convinced they are off acquiring new buddies, rather than maintaining the ones they already have. They end up careering around like a politician - full of smiles, promises and party invitations but little substance.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all run little campaigns to win the attention of people we instinctively gravitate towards. Sometimes it's more subconscious than deliberate. Like at parties, there are some people you naturally gravitate towards and the other kind you spend the whole evening avoiding.

At other times, it's quite a conscious process. My friend campaign usually kicks into gear when I move to a new town. I have moved a lot in my 36 years. My daughter is about to move into her sixth house just before her third birthday.


It's all been about jobs and education, but I've promised my wife that this is the last move for a long time.

The antidote to loneliness in new towns is to get a hobby. Mine is team sports. Playing with a dozen or so blokes from all walks of life is a brilliant way to meet new people. At the end of the game, there is plenty to talk about over a beer.

For extra value, I'd suggest bringing the wife and kids to the after-match function. It's a good way for her to meet your team-mates' wives and kids and to get them on board. It also makes it easier to get domestic approval to sneak away for an afternoon with the blokes. Tell her it's sport.

One of my mates has 800 Facebook friends. It makes my 299 online mates look positively hermit-like. Still, I wouldn't have talked to 280 of them in the past year. In fact, I doubt I would recognise 100 of them if I passed them in the street. I'd take my top 12 buddies around the dinner table over a hall of 100 any day.

My best friends are the ones I made at high school. Sadly, we don't see each other as much as we would like to, but it doesn't matter. We are all middle-aged now, but revert instantly to teenage roles when we get together.

There is the fall guy who takes most of the ribbing from others, the leaders and those in the middle. My mates would tell me I'm the fall guy, but I think I'm in the middle.

So I'm thinking, when it comes to friends, less is more. Pick your top dozen, half dozen even, and invest the time in them. You will be richly rewarded and know instantly who to turn to when the going gets tough.

As for my mates who spend all their time collecting new friends, the grass isn't always greener. In fact, most times the fence isn't even worth climbing.

Hadyn Jones is a journalist taking time off from collecting friends. He also wants it known he doesn't have a teaspoon collection but does write a fortnightly column.