Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date?

Gerald Mollenhorst Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date
Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date

Had a good chat with someone recently? Has a good friend just helped you to do up your home? Then you will be lucky if that person still does that in seven years’ time. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst investigated how the context in which we meet people influences our social network. One of his conclusions: you lose about half of your close network members every seven years. You are stuck with your family but you can choose your friends. Really? For years sociologists have argued to what extent personal networks are the results of your own preferences or the context in which you can meet someone. Would your best friend have been your best friend if you had not been in the same class for three years? You may have more Facebook friends as the years go by, but when it comes to your close friends, you lose about half and replace them with new ones after about seven years, new social research suggests.

As a result, the size of your social network stays about the same.People might like to think they have control over whom they choose as friends, but social networks could also be influenced by the context in which we meet one another. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how many our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference. He conducted a survey of 1,007 people ages 18 to 65, and then contacted the participants seven years later. From the original group, 604 people were re-interviewed. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

Many sociologists assume that our society is becoming increasingly individualistic. For example, it is held that we strictly separate work, clubs and friends. Mollenhorst established, however, that public contexts such as work or the neighbourhood and private contexts frequently overlap each other. The results showed that personal network sizes remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical subject's network seven years later. And only 48 percent were still part of the network. This finding goes against previous research which had showed that social network sizes are shrinking. Mollenhorst also established that networks were not formed based on personal choices alone. Our friend choices are limited by the opportunities to meet. He saw that people frequently choose friends from a context in which they have previously chosen a friend. Also, whether or not our friends know each other strongly depends on the context under which people meet.

Another recent study showed that social networks were shrinking dramatically. Scientists at Duke University, and the University of Arizona, Tuscon, published a study in 2006 claiming that social networks were not only shrinking a great deal, but that the number of people claiming to have no one with whom to discuss important issues was skyrocketing.

7 year frindship
Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date

I've heard this figure thrown around by many friendship experts and psychologists over the years, and I think it's an interesting study. My personal opinion is that this is more factual as we get older. A fascinating component that seems to be missing from the study is the impact of the Internet in expanding the opportunities to meet new people and changing the dynamics of social context. In the end, the opportunity to meet reigns above it all, as you can’t fall in love with Mr. Right or meet Miss Best Friend if you never have the opportunity.

One take-away message: If a friendship is meaningful, it needs to be nurtured.
Do most of your relationships have a shelf life?


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