science of us

How Many Friends Do I Have?

Photo: Hollie Fernando/Getty Images

Twelve? Four? None? According to a new poll, 22 percent of millennials say they have “no friends” at all. (Nine percent of baby boomers, by comparison, report having no friends.)

It’s sort of a strange poll, though, because it also revealed that 25 percent of millennials also claim to have “no acquaintances,” which at first seemed a little dark but then began to seem almost impressive. How do you manage that? The poll, conducted by the data collection company YouGov, included answers from 1,254 adult Americans, and I’m guessing that people either got caught up in the emo-ness of answering in the loneliest way possible, or figured “acquaintance” meant something marginally more intimate, given its proximity to “friends,” “close friends,” and “best friends.” But … still?

The poll of course also makes me wonder how many friends I have. Too many? Not enough? Compared to other millennials (half of whom report having between one and four close friends), I’m more or less straight down the middle, with at least a dozen friends, a few close friends, and thousands of acquaintances. (Seriously, what on earth? Acquaintance: “a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend.” Acquaintance: “person whom you know but do not know well.”)

Thirty percent of millennials also said they “always” or “often” feel lonely, whereas 15 percent of baby boomers reported feeling that way. Rather than be too depressing, though, the news of millennial loneliness is supposedly mitigated by the fact that early adulthood is a notoriously lonely time, or at least it was in the ’90s, too. Nevertheless, as Vox asks, “What will happen to millennials, who are already reporting high levels of loneliness, when they reach old age?” I don’t know, but that’s what babies are for, right? Right?


How Many Friends Do I Have?