Benefits of the BFF

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive.” - Anais Nin

When you have a real friend, a true ally, you can count yourself as lucky. They’ve got your back in all scenarios. They’ll go to war for you. They ask the real questions: Do you need me to beat him up? Do you want to stay on my couch? Do you need a fake emergency text?

We all deserve to find that unreplaceable soul that patiently listens, wisely advises, defends you at all costs and stands by through thick and thin. Now, one set of scientists believes it is possible for each and every one of us to have a best friend.

According to Penn State cognitive psychologists, Peter DeScioli and Robert Kurzban, a best friend is chosen to be a primary ally, much as nation states choose allies. They believe we couple up as BFFs because we want an equal alliance, meaning we don’t choose a friend only for what they can do for us or for admired status (both previous hypotheses), but we choose them based on loyalty.

AKA: I’ll be your BFF if you’ll be mine.

The reason this theory matters, is that it does not leave some people behind in the friendship game -- specifically those who do not have an attractive status or perks to grant others. The loyalty theory of friendship still tells us it’s a symbiotic relationship, but one available to all and one that places each party on equal footing.  

Kurzban says, "We live in a world where conflict can arise and allies must be in position beforehand. [Our] hypothesis takes into account how we value those alliances. In a way, one of the main predictors of friendship is the value of the alliance. The value of an ally, or friend, drops with every additional alliance they must make, so the best alliance is one in which your ally ranks you above everyone else as well." 

"In this hypothesis," Kurzban goes on to say, "[even] the least popular kid at the party with nary an alliance in the room is setup to be paired with someone looking for a friend."

And, if we do pair up and align ourselves with another, we reap a bevy of tangible rewards. Friends can improve our moods, extend our lives, make exercising easier and even help keep you thin.

One really good friend may be an incredible blessing, but do you need a whole clan?  

Well, if you can line up a few more buddies for happy hour, you may find a tad more happiness.

This is likely because it behooves us from an evolutionary standpoint to be accepted by a group. It meets our basic needs, keeps us safe, and, to be fair, this allows us to thrive. Belonging is also hardwired into our brains.

In fact, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that doubling your group of friends has the same effect on your wellbeing as a 50% increase in income.

And, for the record, online friendships don’t count. You have to hang out, in person.

So get out there, see your friends and make new ones. As philosopher Baltasar Gracian

once said, “True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island.”

Rocky Lewis
Rocky Lewis