Friend Turnover

Seven years from now, a new study reports, your friend group will probably look entirely different, even though it’ll still be the same size. Utrecht University sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst surveyed 604 people about their friends and again seven years later, and found that only 48 percent of people’s original friends were still part of their network after that time period. How will social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter affect the rate of friend turnover in the next seven years? [%comments]


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  1. nancy says:

    After going 4000 miles out of my way to meet online acquaintances, I realize that all the gongho-ness of meeting online friends was like a high school reunion: not lasting.

    Being a nomad (bedouin, tramp) makes it difficult for people to befriend people on the move constantly. Circles of friends always change. Depending when and if you start a family, at 29 they revolved around children. At 39 they revolved around homes and neighborhoods. At 49 with freedom from direct family ties, they don’t exist when you live like a sole gypsy.

    Of course many people have office jobs and their friends revolve around that. When folks retire, friend membership also just disentegrates. You might be able to replace this with facebook type relationships but i still bet on physical proximity and not online clicks.

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  2. WAlex says:

    Given that I don’t think I’ll be in the same city, nor province, in 7 years time. I’d say that the make up of my friends will change 100%.

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  3. BSK says:

    My guess this has a lot to do with other life changes and the way in which the people answered the question. I recently moved from NYC to DC. I had friends in both places, and haven’t really made any *new* friends in that time. But if you were to ask me a year ago (while still in NY) who my three closest friends were, I would have likely named 3 people in NY who I saw quite often. Ask me now, and I will likely say the 3 people in DC I see most often. None of my relationships have changed; I am still just as close with the friends in NY as I was previously, and no closer with the friends in DC than I was previously. Yet, because of circumstance, I would probably answer the question differently. So, my guess is this phenomenon has less to do with people actually making drastic shifts in their social groups, and more likely is the result of outside circumstances. One way I think you could control for this would be how you ask the question.

    Saying, “Tell me who all your friends are,” would likely result in a list of people who are at the forefront of a person’s mind, whether or not this represents the extent and depth of their social network.

    Saying, “If you were to get married today, who would be in your wedding party,” would be much more likely to actually determine if the core of an individual’s friend network has shifted.

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  4. Eric M. Jones says:

    “…surveyed 604 people about their friends and again seven years later, and found that only 48 percent of people’s original friends were still part of their network after that time period…”

    Now wait a minute! After any number of years, my family will still be part of my network if they remain alive. My Inlaws will also be part of my network, depending on whether or not I stay married.

    Female friends are problematic. Although I might want to stay friends….my wife would rightfully object.

    So all these relationships and many others have little to do with time.periods, nor social-networking pages. Some friends have merely remained in touch by whatever methods worked….in person, by phone, telegrams, letters, email, video, facebook …whatever.

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  5. Zach says:

    Not having read the study, the following question comes to mind:

    Is there a difference between age groups? I would expect higher turnover after 7 years from an 18 year-old leaving high school and going to college than someone aging from say 45 to 52.

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  6. Kieran says:

    Mine turns over less as I get older.

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  7. Garvit Sah says:

    With the rapid change in jobs and places of working, friendships are bound not to be long lasting. People keep on moving around the country, even across the wolrd.

    Social networking sites reduce the effort needed to keep in touch with old friends but practically many of these people would not meet each other ever again in their lifetimes even though they can remainvery good online friends. This reduces the issue to one of how one defines friendship – for some just meeting online might be enough, for others chatting some people over the net might not mean anything.

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  8. Christian Bieck says:

    If there is an average, some people must be above and some below, I guess.

    At 48 percent, I would question the study’s definition of “friendship”, though. If distance is a factor, that is not a friend, in my opinion, but merely an acquaintance. The core of my real friends has grown during the years, with very few drop-outs.

    Family is not automatically in the friend-category, some are, some aren’t.

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