Do friendships have a sell by date?

When I was younger, my best mate was Tim. He had the newest video games and an insatiable desire to show them off so naturally we hung out a lot. Eventually my family moved a few miles away and we didn’t see each other again until we started secondary school. But by then we were near strangers with different friends and interests. Our friendship had past its sell by date.

Upon leaving university I was faced with a bit of problem; Who should I keep in my life? Social media has made it easier to collect and maintain connections with anyone. I’ve probably come into contact with hundreds of people so in theory I could be connected with everyone. In practice I choose to be a little more discerning and have only kept up with about five or so people from university. That felt like about the right number for me.

According to Psychologist Professor Dunbar I might be onto something by keeping my social circle small. According to him we can only really maintain a network of about 150 people and close contact with 15 or less.

My close friends are important to me. They’re among some of the dearest friends I’ve ever had and I imagine them being a continued presence in my life. I want to go to their weddings, see their kids grow up and reminisce about times past when we are old and grey.

Yes, it’s fun to re-connect with people from my past, completely out of the blue. But I’m not hoping against hope that I’ll run into that guy who disappeared in second year or that Tim and I will rekindle our gaming partnership. It’s unlikely to happen.

As time goes on, I expect my close friendships will change. I’ll lose touch with people I thought I’d never lose touch with and connect with people who are now complete strangers. Some people will be friends for a season but I hope there’ll be some mates who remain close for life.


by Rob Edwards

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