Wellbeing

Sorry But Science Says Half Your Friends Don’t Even Like You

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, having friends is important. They’re a shoulder to lean on, an important part of your support network and, above all else, they’re people you can just have fun with and be yourself around.

Yeah friends are great, but what if we told you that half your mates are fake AF?

The “true-friends” study

A 2016 study, led by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that just might be the case. The study analysed 84 students – aged 23 to 38 – and asked them to rank how close they felt with each other on a scale from 0 to 5 (0 meaning they don’t know them, 5 meaning they’re one of their best friends).

Turns out, 94% of students expected that the feeling would be mutual, but only 53% of them actually were. Did somebody just draw some curtains? Cause it just got shady in here.

The results are limited, being such a small and isolated study and all – but the numbers do stack up. They’re consistent with several other friendship studies from the past decade, which comprised more than 90,000 subjects, reports the New York Times. These studies revealed reciprocity rates of between 34% and 53%

What does this say about us? Are we trash heaps who don’t really care for our friends? Well it’s a little more complicated than that.

One of the study’s researchers, Alex Pentland, reckons it may be the result of our inability to correctly read people as a result of our own denial. We want to maintain a favourable self-image, so we refuse to believe that anyone we may like doesn’t like us back. Basically we’re too proud to ever be rejected.

How much friendship can we take?

So what’s the takeaway? Well it turns out we might just not be emotionally capable of maintaining a heap of close friendships.

A recent study revealed that we might only really be able to maintain five close friendships at one time.

“People may say they have more than five but you can be pretty sure they are not high-quality friendships,” says renowned British anthropologist and leader of the study, Robin Dunbar.

So next time you see your friends, be sure to demand that they rate you on a friendship scale from 0 to 5. Kidding. Have faith in your friendships, hang with the people who build you up, support you and make you a better person, because ~spoiler alert~ all the others don’t matter.

While you’re here, check out our articles on making friends as an adult, and how to handle a friendship that’s turned toxic.


Bradley is a writer from regional NSW and he didn’t come here to make friends, he came to win. He tweets infrequently to his 43 followers @bradjohnston_.

Main image: Mean Girls