Jessica Brown

The upsides to being a bit of a loner

It’s taken a while, but now I know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me that makes me incapable of friendship

Share

A new survey has found that we have the most friends – an average of 80 – when we’re 29 years old. I'm sure I'm not the only one surprised by this figure. The only way it can make sense is if you have a very loose definition of ‘friend’. I think of a friend as someone you can completely trust, someone who knows you really well, can share silence with you and hated all your ex-boyfriends long before you did. Do most people really have such a high number of people in their lives who answer this definition?

The survey got me thinking about my own friends. Although I'd never admit it to you in person, over recent years I haven’t had many. It’s not much fun having to go through difficult times without someone to listen to your complaining, answering your call in the middle of the night or turning up at your door unannounced with your favourite chocolate. After a while you crave the closeness only a best friend can offer, and you start vetting everyone you meet as a potential friend to begin filling the void Friends help us figure out who we are and give us the confidence to be that person. They make us feel important just by giving us their time.

There’s no doubt we put pressure on ourselves to have a giant friendship group, but the pressure isn't just internal. I was recently working with a colleague on a project that targeted people my age.

For a painfully long couple of weeks, she’d ask: “What would your friends say about this? If you were on a night out with your friends, what would they think?” If my imagination were a muscle, I would have strained it. But she can be forgiven, because loneliness is not the kind of thing you’re aware of unless it’s affecting you.

Not having many close friendships can eat away at your self-esteem: it’s difficult not to take it personally when everyone else around you seems to have loads of friends.

But as important as they are, having 80 friends really doesn’t sound very appealing, quite aside from the fact that you’d be at a birthday party every five days. It’s taken a while, but now I know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me that makes me incapable of friendship. And if you ever find yourself in a similar friend drought, it’s very likely there’s nothing wrong with you, either.

In fact, there are some upsides to being a bit of a loner. You can be selfish: think of how many times you'd have to do something you didn’t want to if you had 80 people to placate. You don't have to compromise, or pretend to be interested in three-hour conversations about interview outfits. You don’t have to go out when you feel like staying in, or settle for your second-favourite restaurant.

The survey found that adults make most of their friends at work due to longer working hours. But despite our busy lives, we mustn’t forget the importance of alone time – which is something you won’t be surprised to learn I have in abundance.

Getting on with life without the incomparable support of friends makes you resilient, self-sufficient, self-aware and brimming with stories from when you were looking at the world around you rather than texting. In other words, it makes you the perfect friend.

So I will embrace ageing and look forward to reaching the age of 29, just in case the survey is right. But despite verging on buying a fish just so I have someone to talk to, I hope I never have 80 friends. A friend is way too special to have in such vast quantities.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor