One evening, I stopped by a friend’s house to return a book I’d borrowed. The following morning, I went on Facebook and noticed the little birthday reminders in the upper right corner.
It was her birthday, and I hadn’t mentioned it the night before because I hadn’t remembered.
I can be a clod like that. I often blame it on my inability to keep track of details. (I’m a big picture person, people! I’m good at ideas! You need ideas? Come to me! You need to cross all the Ts and dot the Is? Ask someone else!) In reality, however, I handle many details really well. I know when the kid’s underpants drawer is running low. If someone in my house needs to find a screwdriver or a receipt or even a stray sock, chances are I know where it is. I don’t even need to go to my shower to see if we’re running low on soap. We are.
The kid is due for a well visit and a dental check up. I need no calendar to remind me of this. My brain does it automatically.
So why is it so hard for me to keep track of my friends? According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it might be because I have too many of them. On Facebook, I’m connected to more than one thousand people: high school friends, college friends, friends from my first job, friends from my second job, friends from my third job, friends who also work as freelance writers, meditation friends, kung fu friends, friends I inherited from my husband, in-laws, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even friends that I’ve met online. It seems like every day I see a status update and think, “Wait. What? Is she grieving?” Then I scroll through that friend’s status history and learn that yes, indeed, her mom died a month before, and I hadn’t even bothered to reach out.
From Facebook, I’ve learned that friends have become mothers, and I hadn’t even known they were pregnant.
And married friends have become single, and I didn’t even know they were having problems.
Can you relate?
For most of us, social media has dramatically expanded our circle of friends and, for the most part, this is a good thing. There are few things that health experts unanimously agree on, but the power of friendships is one of them. Supportive friendships increase our sense of belonging, boost our happiness, blast away stress, help us improve our lives and stick to resolutions, and make hard times feel less hard. They also keep us alive.
And they help us stay happily married.
So if 150 is the max that we can realistically keep track of, what is the minimum? According to a study that came out earlier this year, the answer: Ten.
That’s not 10 Facebook friends who have hidden your updates because they are sick of hearing about your ongoing home improvement project. No, that’s 10 supportive friends who have your back. When you think of such friends, you are filled with a warm, gooey feeling of gratitude.
Here are ten friends every wife and mother needs.
Read more of Alisa’s writing at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.