Sorry, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross: It turns out that Friends was even more fictitious than previously thought. A recent study by researchers at MIT imparted the somewhat depressing kernel of truth that only about half of your friends actually like you.
The main takeaway of the study had everything to do with what the study refers to as (friendship) reciprocity. Notes its authors:
“When analyzing self-reported relationship surveys from several experiments, we find that the vast majority of friendships are expected to be reciprocal, while in reality, only about half of them are indeed reciprocal. These findings suggest a profound inability of people to perceive friendship reciprocity, perhaps because the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one’s self-image.”
How did they come to these stunning results? The researchers studied 84 participants between the ages of 23 and 38, who had some level of friendship with one another; and found that the “feelings were mutual 53 percent of the time while the expectation of reciprocity was pegged at 94 percent,” per The New York Times.
The Times is quick to point out—by interviewing a host of “friendship” experts—that there are many extenuating circumstances involved in the making (and nurturing) of friendships. For instance, “friendship” is a particularly abstract concept in and of itself; there isn’t a specific way of defining it. Also, since we only have a relatively short period on this Earth, we can only have so many friends.