How Many Real Friends Can You Have at Once? – Facts So Romantic

My wife can’t seem to walk for a half-hour around Ottawa, a city with nearly a million people, without running into at least three of her friends. Some people, like my wife, seem to have a zillion of them, while others appear to be content with just a handful. Having more friends seems like a good thing: It’s been shown to make you happier, and your social circle is more important than diet, and even exercise, to your longevity and happiness.1

But is there a limit to how many friends you can profitably have?

RIA Novosti archive

Let’s start with conversation size. It’s easy to chat with one or two people, but after that it gets more complicated. The maximum number of people who can converse at once—sharing alternating viewpoints and responding to one another—is about five.2 When more than five people gather, there is simply too much distance for everyone to hear everyone else (though this upper limit varies with the level of ambient noise). There may also be something more aesthetically pleasing to us about smaller groups of people. A 2014 study of famous paintings from all over the world, ancient and contemporary, found that over 50 percent of…

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