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How many times have you heard a joke about BFFs? Like: What does a 20 something say when asked about their BFFs? I gotta lotta best friends. Some of them I even know!
You ask, what is a BFF and why do we need BFFs?
The use of BFF started in online chat rooms so let’s look at a web definition. A BFF is your bestie; your bestie is a close friend with whom you spend lots of time. Social media has certainly created a new meaning for the term “friend.” Are you are under 25? Is your goal to have as many “friends” as possible? For some, it is almost a contest to see how many “friends” they have on Facebook.
That raises the question how many “friends” can we have. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar found we could only keep friendships with about 150 people at any given time. Facebook also reports that its average user has about 130 “friends.”
Are you saying, yeah, but I don’t need friends, doing it alone is better? Let’s take a minute and look at the benefits of friendship.
People who have strong social relationships are less likely to die prematurely compared with socially isolated people. One hundred forty-eight studies linked the strength of people’s social relationships and their integration into the community to decreased mortality. Yang Claire Yang, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, thinks that friendships help your body handle stress and reduces the negative effect of long-term stress. She showed the positive effect of social ties on life span to be twice as strong as that of exercising, and equivalent to that of quitting smoking.
Friendships can help keep your mind sharp. A group of 2,000 65-year-old people without any signs of dementia answered a series of questions. Almost 2 ½ times as many people, who described themselves as feeling lonely at the start of the study, developed dementia during the study.
Rascal Flatts “won’t let go.” Bruno Mars sings “Count on me.” “Stand by you” is Rachel Platten’s theme. Bill Withers wants you to “lean on me.” We all need a friend to lean on at times. When the going gets tough, friends can help.
For example, generally, support groups improve the quality of life in cancer patients. Both women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer reported a better quality of life and lived longer than those who avoided support groups. Martina McBride, at 38, facing cancer, wrote this about her husband’s reaction: When you’re weak, I’ll be strong. When you let go, I’ll hold on. When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes. When you feel lost and scared to death, like you can’t take one more step, just take my hand, together we can do it, I’m gonna love you through it.
Life throws all of us a curve now and then. Friends can help. Cortisol is a hormone our body releases when we are under stress. We need cortisol but too much can have a negative side effect. Researchers measured the level of cortisol in fourth graders. Don’t laugh, but the researchers measured the cortisol level in fourth-graders salvia. The cortisol level was lower when friends helped the kids cope with the stress.
Yes, I laughed at the picture of fourth grade boys spitting for the researchers. All kidding aside, our friends can keep us grounded and help us find perspective. Friends form a foundation for our ability to cope with the problems of life. We may talk to friends in confidence about things we wouldn’t discuss with our families. Our friends may annoy us, but they can also keep us going.
With all these benefits, who doesn’t want friends? Amazingly, with the goal to have hundreds of friends on Facebook, Americans are still growing more socially isolated. Next week we will look at the “hows” in forming friendships.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin. Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.