In there, it showcased the friednship pyramid, and how you have different types of friendship intimacy layers:
This pyramid can be seen in alignment with Dunbar's Numbers (or Dunbar's Law, as some people refer it to).
For those who don't know: Robin Dunbar was a sociologist who asked himself one question: how many people can you be familiar with?
Back in the late-twentieth century, Dunbar came up with a model that explains how there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.
Dunbar differentiates between four types of relationships:
► The “Family” (5 connections): Those are the people you know inside out, have (almost) daily interactions with, and who will come for you if you’re on your deathbed
► The “Extended Family” (15 connections): Those are the people in whom you have full trust, those who know you intimately and who fulfill a deep function in your life
► The “Clan” (50 connections): Those are the people you see on a more or less regular basis, about whom you know their fundamental drives and often share a common identity
► And “The Extended Network” (150 connections): Those are the people you know by name, are aware of their main interest(s), and about whom you have a general understanding as to how they are connected between one another
When I tried to put my own friends on the pyramid from WaitbutWhy, I had a harder time - mainly because certain friends weren't clearly in one category or another.
I also didn't want to put friends into clear categories such as "best friend" or "secondary friend layer" - mostly because these are limiting perspectives, and because friendships evolve over time.
So I asked myself the question: what does friendship mean to me, today?
Based on that question, I then ranked my friendship criteria, allocated a pointing system and was able to rationally explain my emotions of love and connection towards certain people in my life.
I categorized friendships based on four needs:
- Emotional support: sharing what is troubling me and helping me overcome challenges
- Interest and activities: alignment in how I spend my time and where my curiosity goes
- Projects: overlap on what I work on
- Living Environment: spending time living with that person
Since the four needs have different amounts of importance for me, I give them different points:
- Emotional Support gets 5 points, interests/activities gets 3 points, projects get 3 points, and living environment only 1 point
- Not every relationship has the same amount of intensity. Hence, I differentiated between high intensity (market with an "X" and gets full amount of points) and low intensity (marked with a small "x" and gets only half the amount of points
It ended up looking like this:
(names have been anonymized)
Criticism towards that model:
- The notion of longevity is not taken too much into account (question: do I have more attachment to an old friend than a new one?)
- The notion of "potential for the future" is not taken into account as well. For example, one friends actually ticked a lot of boxes (has a 5.5 score) and we've known each other for years, but our values are growing apart. I knwo that our relationship will be smaller and smaller over time, if we don't realign on certain values or topics.
- The notion of love languages is not taken into account (ex: I care about quality time - while someone else might care about gifts).
- What does friendship mean to me?
- Which needs do friendships fulfill?
- How do people fit in within these criteria?
Whether it's truly helpful to go through this framework is another question. It's fun to do and, it's always good to know what needs people help you to fullfil!