Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Hard Facts: Is Facebook Social or Stressful? Or Both?

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“A large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.” (“More Facebook Friends Means More Stress, Says Report”; 11/26/2012)

I find scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed both stress-inducing and addictive. It’s like a bad drug. Every time I lose 30 minutes to the social network, I feel worse. Like I’ve just wasted time spying on others, while doing nothing productive myself. It stresses me out to see all the fabulous activities others are doing or links others are reading or vacations others are taking. I should be doing those things–and more!

But for most people, the source of Facebook stress isn’t that it’s virtual crack (apparently, I’m flying solo on that one). The issue is who to add as friends, and then what to allow these friends to see. “The more groups of people in someone’s Facebook friends, the greater potential to cause offense. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety,” this report says. “Stress arises when a user presents a version of themself on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online ‘friends’, such as posts displaying behavior such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.”

When I started working at my last job, I was hardly on Facebook. I had a profile, but I logged in once every two months. This was in 2007, before everyone posted every moment of her day. As my superiors started adding me as a “friend,” I got more familiar with privacy settings. I didn’t allow my bosses to see my photos. (Not that they were particularly incriminating, but you never know what someone else is likely to post. And there are some pics of me in college–scanned from actual print photos and posted online, thankssomuch guys–that I didn’t need out there.) I created a work group listie thing that I could exclude from seeing certain status updates. That job is behind me now and so are those privacy settings, but I understand why it might cause anxiety. Thank God I was a bit older when Facebook hit the scene. If I was in college now, having pictures of every drunken night plastered all over the Internet, I’d be stressed too. Especially when it came time to apply for jobs.

According to this study, plenty of our Facebook friends aren’t necessarily friends, anyway. “Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent), and colleagues (65 per cent).” It’s no shock that one might get anxious when parents, grandparents and colleagues are constantly kept abreast of her actions.

The author of this study gave this analysis, and I think it’s on point: “Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”

Do you agree? Is Facebook the awesomest frat party ever? Or the most awkward family gathering of your life?



Filed under The Search

What’s More Important Than Friend Time?

The thing about spending time with friends (new and old) is that it often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. We put off adult play dates because of work obligations, because we’re under the weather, because we haven’t been to the gym in a week, because our kids need us, because we have a date with our husbands, because the cat needs to go to the vet, because we have a million errands to run, because we have to read for book club, or because we’re tired and just want a quiet night at home. I try really hard not to cancel plans or put off hanging out with friends, but when I do it’s usually because I’m feeling sick. Having been sick for about a week a couple of weeks ago, I had to send more “can we reschedule?” emails than usual.

I do find that I put off scheduling friend time when I’m feeling overwhelmed–with work, or just general life overwhelmedness. It’s a feeling that can come up plenty during holiday time, in fact. That sense that you just have so much going on, and you need to soak up any down time you have. Deep down I know this is a bad reason–being with friends relaxes you! It’s scientifically proven!–but still, the siren song of the couch is even louder when stress levels are high.

So, that’s it for me. Stress and sickness are the culprits that get in the way of my friend time. What about you? What is it that keeps you from scheduling more time with pals? Kids? Working out? Exhaustion? And what steps can you take to make friends a bigger priority?


Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: Time to Give Thanks

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“About nine-in-ten adults (89%) said they would be having a Thanksgiving meal with members of their family — and not just one or two. Among those who said they would be sharing a drumstick with family, more than six-in-ten (62%) said that ten or more relatives would be at that Thanksgiving meal — and a quarter (27%) said there would be 20 or more. Overall, the typical host would be setting places for 12 family members.” (Pew Research Center)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because mashed potatoes are my favorite food.

It’s about family and friendship — and traveling near and far just to spend time with the people you love. In fact, 56% of drivers will travel at least 100 miles to celebrate with loved ones, while the average long-distance trip is 240 miles. (I’ll be getting on a flight from Chicago to Boston later today.)

The whole point of the holiday is gratitude, which researchers agree is almost as important as friendship. In fact, studies show that gratefulness can boost your happiness, strengthen your relationships, help you sleep, and even inspire you to stick to an exercise routine.

So this Thursday here’s a sampling of what I’m grateful for:

Great family
Fabulous friends
Three days a week of SVU marathons (I love you USA Network!)
The Cosby Show and Friends on Nick at Nite
My book club
My editor and agent
And, of course, as always…. YOU! Thanks for returning to the blog and supporting MWF Seeking BFF , the book! (Shameless self-promotional side note: It’s a great book for holiday reading. A strong reminder of how lucky we are to have BFFs…another thing to be grateful for!)


Filed under The Search

Dispatches from the Other Side

When I started this blog two-and-a-half years ago, I was looking for new friends and had little to no idea how to find them. Much has changed in the time since. I’ve made lots of new pals. I’ve figured out a number of ways to meet new people–joining groups, getting set up, accepting invitations. I’ve settled into a life in Chicago that I never saw coming when I started on my friend quest.

And lately, I’ve found myself on the other side of the friend search. Recently an old acquaintance moved to town and reached out for dinner. I met a woman in a doctor’s office who suggested we exchange email addresses, and we did.

It seems the friender has become the friendee. 

As such, I wanted to pass along some notes from the other side of the fence.

Such as…

If you invite a potential pal to brunch (or drinks, or dinner, or even a non-food get-together), and she doesn’t immediately reciprocate with an invitation of her own, this does not mean she didn’t like you. Sometimes it just means she’s really busy, or she’s trying to keep up with other pals and she honestly hasn’t remembered to reach out because your friendship is brand new. I’ve long hammered the point of making the first move, and then the second, and even the third when it comes to new friends. Reciprocity is a rule of friendship, but if you’ve only met once, you’re hardly friends. The rules don’t apply. That new acquaintance I met? We had a great time at dinner. I didn’t reach out again immediately, because my schedule was jammed with travel and some dates already on the calendar. But when she texted me a week later to say hi, I was reminded to invite her along on a girls night, and we both had a great time. I was so glad she reached out that second time, because I had been meaning to get in touch. I didn’t think she was weird or desperate or pathetic. I thought she was smart, and cool.

People really do like connecting. After meeting a new friend in the doctor’s office–we exchanged email addresses and talked for ages as we left the office together–I was so excited! I called Matt squealing, as if I’d made my first friend ever. It was just so flattering to have her simply say, “Would you want to exchange email addresses? I’d love to chat more.” Um, yes please. She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with. Friender McGee over here. In the context of sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I probably would have been too shy to ask for her email, so I was so happy she did the dirty work.

The lesson here is one I mention a lot: If you extend a hand of friendship, it is the rare person who will call you a weirdo. And, not to sound like your mom, but if she does call you a weirdo, who cares. She’s not worth it.

I’ve been on both sides of the friending fence now and I make you this promise: No potential friend is analyzing your attempt at friendship as much as you are. So go for it. Couldn’t hurt. Really.

Has anyone ever tried to friend you? How did you react? Share your dispatches from the other side!


Filed under The Search

My BFF Is Here!

Do you ever feel like your friends have a radar for exactly when you need them? I was sick last week and have been feeling crummy for a bit since, and suddenly my BFF Sara tells me she has a work trip and is spontaneously coming to Chicago for the weekend! She absolutely could not have timed this trip better — it’s the perfect pick me up!

So of course we will have the perfect girls night: Twilight (VIP movie seating!), drinks, snacks and probably some late-night girl talk. Boys not included. Honestly, is there anything better?

Tell me folks: What does your perfect girls night look like?


Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: Do You Talk To Your Facebook Friends

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“A study conducted in 2009 for The Economist found that people with 500 Facebook friends had actual interaction—such as leaving comments on people’s walls or ‘liking’ their links or photos—with an average of just 17 friends for men, 26 for women. And one-on-one communication, such as individual messages or Facebook chats, was even more limited: men had two-way contact with an average of just 10 of those 500 friends, women with just 16.” (“How Many Facebook Friends Do You Need?” Newsweek, 10/15)

I have a lot of Facebook friends. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have a lot of friends. A number of my Facebook friends are people I haven’t even met–fans of MWF Seeking BFF or this blog–and plenty of them are people from elementary school or summer camp who I haven’t seen in over 15 years. Or they are old high school classmates I never speak to, or friends of friends I met once. The point is, as you all know, just because someone is a Facebook friend doesn’t mean they’re a friend. 

When it comes to these non-friend Facebook friends, we are so not friends that I would never even think about commenting on their Facebook status or photos. It would feel weird, as if I was chiming in somewhere I didn’t belong. Which is totally weird, of course, since we are in fact connected, at least on the social network, which is why I am allowed to see said status or photo in the first place. It’s as if we’ve made an unspoken mutual agreement to look at each others pictures sometimes and get all voyeuristic, but not to actually communicate. Facebook friends, not friends.

I’ve always figured this was true of most people, and this research really drives it home. Of 500 friends, we’ll only interact online with 26 of them? And only 16 directly? That’s fairly remarkable.

Does this research apply to you? Clearly it does to me. Will you like any of your friends’ Facebook statuses or photos? Or, like me, do you comment only on the ones you feel somewhat connected to? Does it surprise you that while we can claim 1500 friends, we can still only maintain actual relationships with a small portion?



Filed under The Search

The Best Friendship Movies

I took a sick day today and spent the last couple hours watching Friends with Kids. It was entertaining enough for a couch potato movie day. I do love Jennifer Westfeldt. But it certainly wasn’t my most favorite friendship movie.

In no particular order, my favorite BFF movies are:

1. Beaches

2. Now and Then

3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

4. Old School

5. Mystic Pizza

6. Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion

7. A League of Their Own

8. The Outsiders

9. Bridesmaids

10. Mean Girls

You? Weigh in on what I missed. (Confession: I’ve still never actually seen all of Thelma & Louise.)


Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: The Seven-Year Itch

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Some friendships last a lifetime, but the truth is most don’t.  In fact, the average friendship only lasts seven years.” (“Surviving a Friend Breakup”; Katie’s Take 10/30/2012)

According to Katie Couric’s interview with friendship expert Irene Levine, most friendships don’t make it past seven years. The reason, she says, is simply that people change over time, so friendships change over time. But if I look at my dearest friends, I’ve been tight with every single one of them for longer than seven years. My very besties are friends from high school and college–both of which took place more than seven years ago.

Some of these friends are people I might not necessarily be close with if we met today. But that’s what’s so great about old friends. Whether you would be pals today or not doesn’t really matter because you’ve grown together.

I know it’s naive to assume all your friends will be around forever. But I generally believe that when it comes to the pals I’m close with, we’re close for a reason. And we’re in it for the long haul.

But, research says, that haul will likely be seven years. Just enough time to get the itch and perhaps a wandering eye and start noticing new potential friends. What is it about this seven year span that makes us question our partner choices?

Let me ask you: How long have you been friends with most of your BFFs? Am I being uber idealistic to think that seven years seems on the speedy side? Do I have too much faith in friendship? I’ve had plenty of shorter peripheral relationships with friends, but when I meet someone who’s the real deal, I do what I can to keep her around. Am I crazy?


Filed under The Search

Friends Don’t Let Friends Not Vote


It’s a little early in the week for research, but it’s timely so here goes: A study of millions of Facebook users on Election Day 2010 (published just this past September) found that “a special ‘get out the vote’ message, showing each user pictures of friends who said they had already voted, generated 340,000 additional votes nationwide — whether for Democrats or Republicans, the researchers could not determine.”

That’s kind of a huge deal. I know people get really frustrated with super-political Facebook posts, but this is bipartisan. It’s just a reminder to VOTE. If you are eligible to vote in America, you gotta do it. You just must. And now there’s reason to believe that if you post on Facebook that you voted, you might be just the person to convince a friend to vote too. I find it fascinating that in a world where we’re inundated with political ads, presidential news, and phone calls from election volunteers, it’s the simple knowledge that a few of your pals voted that might be the most effective in getting people to the polls. And friends of friends are influenced as well.

So the moral of this story: Tomorrow. Vote. Tell your friends you voted. Don’t be shy, be proud. Election day is awesome.


Filed under The Search

Do Politics and Friendship Mix?

Tuesday’s a big day folks. Election time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of my friends are on the same side of the election fence. More often than not, we pick pals with similar values to our own. So I haven’t had to deal with much political infighting amongst my friends, or even any awkward dinner conversation.

But we all know the rule: no politics or religion at the dinner table. It can be a tough subject to avoid at this time of year.

In the past I had a very close friend with whom I didn’t see eye to eye. He loved getting into political battles with me. I chose instead to say “I’m not talking about this with you.” I knew he wouldn’t change my mind and I wouldn’t change his. I also knew that the conversation, at least on my end, could only lead to frustration. I didn’t want to like him less, and I was worried that if we got to deep into debate, that might be end result. So we chose to cool it, and talk more about everything else we did have in common instead of the one thing we would never agree upon.

But that was many years ago. Now we live in separate cities, and don’t see each other or talk nearly as much as I would like,  so we won’t have what I know would be a heated debate this year.

Still, this time of year does make me think. Political seasons can be the end of friendships. Or at least a controversial time between a Democrat and her Republican bestie.  So you tell me: Ever lost a friend, or gotten in a real fight, over politics? Does the “no politics at the dinner table” rule still hold up? Or that too old-fashioned?


Filed under The Search