Unrequited friendship? [Photo: unsplash.com via Pexels]
How many mates do you have in your friend squad? 5, 10, 15, 20? Well if you’re anything like Taylor Swift it’s probably 50 and counting. But though Swifty might count every single one of her crew as a BFF, science has revealed that only half of them will consider her a friend back. Soz and all that Taylor.
The research, published in PLoS One, gave a survey to 84 college students in the same class, asking each one to rate every other person on a friendship scale of zero (“I do not know this person”) to five (“One of my best friends”). If a participant rated a person as a three or higher, the researchers counted this as the student as considering the other person a friend.
The students also wrote down their guesses for how each person would rate them. So, for example, if you were given the test you’d say your bestie is a five, and you’d be proper annoyed if they didn’t give you a five back.
Laughing with you or at you? It’s tricky to know who your real friends are says science [Photo: Rex Features]
But though 94% of students’ ratings and guesses matched, meaning that the majority assumed that their friendship feelings were mutual, only 53% of the friendships were actually reciprocated. This means that nearly half (47%) were unrequited, with one person considering the other a mate (three or higher) and the other putting them in the non-friend zone. Which is pretty darned devastating no?
Ok so the study was small and didn’t take into account the fact that friendships change over time, but in order to check that their results were accurate the researchers cross referenced previous other surveys on friendship, ranging in size from 82 people to 3,160. And do you know what they found? The same thing.
Among these alternative studies, the highest proportion of reciprocal friendships was 53%, and the lowest was a really quite upsetting, 34%.
To put it bluntly, effectively half of the people you consider friends don’t consider you a friend at all *sobs*
The friends that play together don’t necessarily stay together [Photo: Rex Features]
But before you tap onto Facebook to do a mass friend cull, the study’s authors have a word of explanation. “These findings suggest a profound inability of people to perceive friendship reciprocity, perhaps because the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one’s self-image,” the study authors wrote. In other words, we find distinguishing true friends from faux friends tricky because our self-worth wants us to believe that we’re really quite popular.
Pretty enlightening huh?
So whatever that number you answered at the beginning of this article. You might actually want to halve it. #justsaying