Philip Guo (Phil Guo, Philip J. Guo, Philip Jia Guo, pgbovine)

Types of Friends

I provide metrics for classifying how good of friends you are with someone. I also hypothesize that although gregarious people have more distant friends than introverted people do, almost everyone has a similar number of close friends.

Here is a way to quickly categorize people based on how good of friends you are with them:

  • Type-1 friends - These are your closest friends in life. To determine whether someone is a Type-1 friend, think about whether you would have a great time eating dinner together with him/her alone on a semi-regular basis and chatting one-on-one for at least 2 hours or even longer. Notice that to be Type-1 friends with somebody, you don't need to be their soul-mate, BFF (best friends forever!), or a childhood friend who goes way back. There just needs to be some compatibility and rapport where both people enjoy each other's company and can share genuine laughs. I don't mean the occasional humorous 'hehe'; I mean true LOLs, where you're literally laughing out so loud that it hurts. Being with your Type-1 friends can be both fun and emotionally fulfilling, and can make you feel happy to be alive. I hypothesize that most people (no matter how sociable) have no more than four Type-1 friends.

  • Type-2 friends - These are people with whom you would enjoy having lunch one-on-one, but not as much as you would with your Type-1 friends. You would be able to hold an interesting conversation for an hour or so, but not for any extended period of time after that, so it would be more appropriate for a lunch break, not for a dinner outing. These are your close friends whose company you enjoy, but not necessarily always one-on-one. A tightly-knit group of 3 to 5 friends might all be Type-2 friends and have a great time at dinner together, sharing laughs and memories. With Type-2 friends, the sum is greater than the whole of its parts ... you might have some fun with each of them individually, but when you put everyone together, you have an even better time. I would guess that most people have around five to ten Type-2 friends.

  • Type-3 friends - These are people whom you know fairly well but would not be interested in having lunch or dinner with them alone and chatting one-on-one. You usually hang out with Type-3 friends in smaller group settings, such as dinners with 4-6 people. You definitely have things to talk about alone with your Type-3 friends, but they are usually about more superficial topics. In a medium-sized clique (e.g., 8-10 people), I bet that several of these people are your Type-3 friends. Another kind of Type-3 friend is someone whom you've known in the past but haven't kept in touch with too much. If that person is visiting your area from out-of-town, you would find it fun to go out for food and drinks with them once just to chat and catch up on old times, but usually after chatting for an hour or so, that's enough. Most people probably have around as many Type-3 friends as Type-2 friends.

  • Type-4 friends - These are people you are friends with because you live or work together with them, and you happen to get along well. A typical gathering of Type-4 friends is a large group social setting, such as a birthday dinner with 12-15 people or a party such as one at your workplace or dormitory floor. Of course, not everyone you know at work or on your dormitory floor counts as your Type-4 friend; you still need to know a bit about them so that you can 'get past the basics' and talk about something less mundane than asking what they do for work or what their college major was. These are the people whom you would invite to your own birthday dinner or party. If you are in a college or work setting, you might have anywhere from 10-25 Type-4 friends, but it really varies depending on how much you like socializing in a large-group setting, which is pretty much the only time you see your Type-4 friends. You probably have their names in your cell phone because you've called them once or twice to coordinate social events, but you wouldn't just call them out of the blue to chat.

  • Type-5 friends - These are people who are good acquaintances. You go to school with them or live with them, see them at parties, in class, lab, or other settings, but you wouldn't really have anything to talk to them about if you are not in a large social setting. They are borderline friends and just pass the threshold from acquaintance to friends. You know their first and last names, and they know your first and last names, and you both know basic facts about each other. You would invite your Type-5 friends to a large house party or get-together that you are having, just to get more people to attend who aren't total strangers. You are usually 'friends' with them on online networking sites such as Facebook, have their screen names on instant messenger but rarely IM them, and you would stop and talk with them for a few minutes if you ran into them on the street somewhere randomly (like, 'whoa, what are you up to these days? ahhh, cool! cya!'), but you wouldn't take the time to have coffee or dinner with them. The number of Type-5 friends you have determines how 'well-connected' or 'popular' you are.

I hypothesize that the more social you are, the more distant (Types 3, 4 and 5) friends you have, but the number of close (Type-1 and Type-2) friends you have remains fairly constant, regardless of your level of gregariousness.

I'm no expert on interpersonal relations, but it's my intuition that most people cannot sustain close, meaningful friendships with more than 10 people. Having more distant friends can be fun, but ultimately, it's your relationships with your Type-1 and Type-2 friends that should be valued the most, even if that means you have fewer distant friends.

How good of friends are you with someone?

Just how good of friends are you with someone? Your responses to these questions can help pinpoint the answer:

  • Are you 'friends' with that person on an online social network?
  • Are you in a photograph with that person?
    • with ONLY that person and nobody else?
    • where you'd be embarrassed to put up that photo in your office?
  • Do you have that person's name/number in your cell phone?
    • Does that person have your name/number in his/her cell phone?
    • If you lost your phone and had to get a new one, would you put that person's name/number in your new phone?
  • Have you ever had a phone conversation with that person that lasted longer than 5 minutes?
    • 15 minutes?
    • 1 hour?
  • If you went to that person's hometown, would you make an effort to see him/her?
    • If that person came to your hometown for a visit, would he/she make an effort to see you?
  • Would you invite that person to your wedding?
    • enthusiastically (as opposed to out of obligation)?
  • Have you ever shared moments where you LOLed?
    • truly laughed from the belly?
    • 'till it hurt?
    • at something that wasn't even that funny?
    • then laughed again at the same stupid thing within the hour?
Subscribe to email newsletter
Donate to help pay for web hosting costs

Created: 2007-06-05
Last modified: 2012-03-31
Related pages tagged as social observations: