Friends are the new family. We`ve no choice any more because the jobs that used to be done by family members on a regular basis, such as confidant, babysitter and someone to watch the TV with, have gone for good. More often than not, we now live too far away for this to be practical, which means that our friends – the people we actually come across most regularly – have to help us out. Naturally, they have to be on the same wavelength as well, but living nearby, having kids at the same school and so on means that we tend to have much in common. This is why they often end up as substitute family, either by chance or on purpose!
But what about the friends we are not soclose to? There was a time when people tended to have a small group of “best” friends and then a second division of twenty or more friends we acquired along the way. They could be people we were on good terms with at work, and since a British 25-year-old has, on average, experienced three different jobs, that soon adds up! Or perhaps we made friends with them at school or university and kept in touch. Maybe they are neighbours, people we know through hobbies, nightclubs or holidays, or ever of friends.
At times it feels as if the numbers in the second division are getting out of control as we travel more and move jobs or houses increasingly frequently – either by choice or out of necessity. It sounds ungrateful, but many of us have collected friends and with only so many hours in the day it`s impossible to keep in contact with all of them So, let`s be honest here. Perhaps one in five of our friendships is purely email based. You like each other, but realistically the friendship is not going to last in the long run.
The Americans call it `obligation overload`. It`s the very 21st-century condition of collecting friends as if our life depended on it and then worrying how on earth to keep track of them. Having so many friends is making us miserable and funny enough it`s your real best friends that won`t put pressure on see them because they know that life is stressful enough already!