Hi Friend,

Welcome to Issue #10. The theme of this newsletter is friendships. What has your friend circle looked like during the pandemic? The average American has 16 friends according to a 2019 poll. The first three are "best friends", five are "good friends" and eight are people you like but don't hang out with 1 on 1. Acquaintances and social media friends are not part of the 16. Then there is the "Dunbar's number", coined by veteran friendship researcher Robin Dunbar. He argues your maximum cognitive limit is 150 total friends - this means you know each person and also know how they all know each other.

According The Atlantic, the pandemic erased entire categories of friendship. Incidentally, Dunbar believes things will return to normal 6-12 months after Covid-19 case counts decline. Think of coworkers at your workplace's lunchroom or kitchen area. Think of staff at a local coffee or sandwich shop not allowed to engage in banter with customers. What about people with shared interests that you meet at a concert, nightclub, record, or comic store. Sociologist, Mark Granovetter calls this outer group your weak ties or people you see less often but connect with quickly. He says weak ties are just as important to our social health and serve a purpose that is different from close friends and family.

Pandemic friends: Anecdotally, many people I spoke with said they met at least one new "weak tie" person online during the pandemic where a connection was made that developed into a satisfying friendship without ever meeting in person. While difficult to connect with someone in a Zoom call, researchers say it's possible to practice something called "conversational reciprocity". When both people feel heard and have the opportunity to speak in a balanced manner with each other, they end up feeling happier and more satisfied.

Dr. Nicholas Christakis is the author of “Apollo’s Arrow”, a book about the impact of Covid-19. He says friendships allow us to cooperate, form alliances, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.

Having friends who encourage, stimulate and support you is associated with improved immunity, lower blood pressure, and higher cognitive function. Having no friends, toxic friends or superficial friends not only can make you feel insecure, lonely or depressed but also can accelerate cellular aging and increase your risk of premature death.

As society opens up, it's helpful to visualize what you want your friend circle to look like. Suzanne Degges-White, a professor of counseling at Northern Illinois University, suggests arranging your 'friendscape' -- where friends belong in the foreground, middle ground, or background, depending on how much time and emotional energy you invest in them.

Foreground friends are friends who just get you. They are there for you and listen to you even if that means they don't always agree with you. You enjoy being with them in the same way they enjoy being with you. Research shows that having friends across the age spectrum is good for our mental health. I watched Here Today, a delightful new comedy-drama movie about how two strangers (Billy Crystal & Tiffany Haddish) from different generations develop an unlikely yet hilarious and caring friendship that helps overcome their loneliness.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Get vaccinated.


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CFP News is a weekly roundup of the best links on how people collaborate, create social impact, and build community. An online version is here and archives are here.


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Flavian DeLima founded Collaborate for Purpose. Besides the newsletter 📧, we have a podcast 🎙️ and run kitchen table conversation events🔥.

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