Friendship is a gift, but maybe not too many.
This is the core idea of a recent study that aims to establish the right number of friends one can have - a calculation called the "friend number paradox."
The study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology asks the reader: you could choose between someone who has a lot of friends or someone who has a smaller circle which one would you rather have as a friend?
"Social relationships are key to our well-being, yet our lay beliefs are often wrong and we adopt suboptimal strategies when we initiate these relationships," study author Xianchi Dai, an associate professor of marketing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, told Insider.
The American Psychological Association said the research hinged on the assumption that the more friends a person has the more we think they will be a good friend or, according to the study "a measure of social capital that increases their interpersonal attractiveness."
Because we expect we would be more acceptable to others if we have more friends we project that idea to others and believe they will judge us in the same way. Moreover, when we're thinking about what we want in a friend, we're more likely to want a relationship with someone who can put more effort to develop and nurture friendship and who's happy to spend time together.
The reality, though, is that those with more friends won't be able to prioritize you. The researchers observed this "incongruity between how many friends we believe people want us to have and the number of friends we want our friends to have."
It seems clear - especially to those of us older than 30 - a smaller circle would see our needs met. The study says if we strive to make it seem like we have an excess of friends in an attempt to raise our appeal we may actually be sabotaging the very objective that we are trying to achieve.
With all that being said, a separate study suggested that only half of our friends really like us. So maybe an educated preemptive subtraction of the undeserving and the tenuous may be the healthiest way to improve our social status.