science of us

Be Honest: Do You Have As Many Friends As Rudy Giuliani?

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Habitual butt-dialer Rudy Giuliani has made another accidental press release, and brace yourself, because this one’s sad: After finishing a conversation with a New York Daily News reporter earlier this week, Giuliani, apparently thinking he’d hung up, complained he had only “five friends left.”

It’s embarrassing, to be sure, but is five friends really that bad, especially for a man Giuliani’s age? Making friends gets harder in adulthood — just last year, 22 percent of millennials surveyed in a YouGov poll said they had “no friends” at all. Friendlessness — real or perceived — is a very, very common condition. Making new friends takes a whole lot of time: generally, about 200 hours spent together before you’ll consider someone “close.” There are some strategies you can employ to speed up the process (like reviving a dormant friendship rather than starting fresh with a stranger, or asking for a series of small favors to jump-start bonding), but there’s no real shortcut.

To complicate matters further, we can’t even agree on what each of us means when we say “friend.” (Consider the varying application of Instagram’s “close friends” feature, for instance.) For some, “friends” can include people they don’t even like. Others use the term “best friend” for eight different people. (As Mindy Kaling famously said, “Best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.”) Most of us feel that other people have more friends than we do, and sometimes, we’re right.

So, all that considered: Does Rudy Giuliani have a lot of friends, or hardly any? Without knowing his personal definition of “friend,” it’s difficult to say, though something tells me he applies the term generously.

Be Honest: Do You Have As Many Friends As Rudy Giuliani?