A Conspiracy: Best Friends are Becoming Extinct

By:  Rachel Ecker 


I have a conspiracy theory.

It seems like everyone I follow on social media has at least 50 different best friends. Each Instagram post or Snap story is with a different person, and each of these posts has the caption "Best friend <3" attached to it. How is that possible? It simply isn't realistic that all these people are genuinely best friends with everyone else. I need to get to the bottom of this. 

A study conducted by the MIT Technology Review found the ideal number of best friendships a person can maintain is five. This implies that while all these people claim to have a multitude of best friends on social media, only a tiny fraction of those people truly share that kind of relationship. I do not doubt that they do share some degree of friendship, otherwise they would not justify being featured on the other's social media. While those that share Instagram posts may be friends, they certainly might not be best friends. So why call themselves that? 

Bec Crew, a writer for ScienceAlert, a science and technology magazine, explains that social media has framed friendship "as a commodity." So, the point of posting all these pictures with our supposed best friends isn't to publicly display our gratitude and appreciation towards the other person, but functions to show our followers how many friends we have. 

When I see these posts of alleged best friends, I am confused. In most cases, I've heard the two best friends in the photo talk badly about each other on separate occasions, and yet they want the world to know that they are each other's closest friend. 

Think about all the female friendships that are represented in movies and TV shows. While the stories of every friendship differs, they follow the same path. There is a friend whose life is working out, and a friend who's jealous. They hang out and go about their friendship, all the while, the jealous friend does not communicate how they are feeling. Eventually, the truth comes out, they have a huge fight, they don't talk for a bit, and then they become best friends again with an even stronger bond. More often than not, that is the course for female friendships in pop culture. This trope occurs in Bridesmaids, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, Bride Wars, Beaches, Mean Girls, Lady Bird, and many others. Also, almost all of the TV shows that represent female best friends that I watched growing up displayed a cool friend and a sidekick. This is the case in Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, That's So Raven and Zoey 101, among others. 

This message of conflict and competition in female friends has translated over into reality. Our friendships are flawed from the beginning because there is a need to be the cooler one or the more put-together one. That isn't realistic but is what we have absorbed as true. 

Here is my theory. Most people actually have a fraction of the amount of best friends that they claim to have. It might even be possible that the majority of people that share a fabricated best friendship on social media aren't as compatible as they show to others. They are in the same social circle and have no room to confront their differences, as that could result in the disruption of the rest of the best friend circle. They continue in silence, posting pictures with each other in the hopes that the hardships of maintaining friendships will dissipate. 

Here is what I propose. People should be able to call whoever they want their best friend. But this means that there will continue to be an oversaturation of best friends circulating on social media. The term 'best friends' has been overused and overshared and is, therefore, approaching extinction. The weight of a person's best friendships should be expressed in other individualized ways. What does this mean for the special five that really are our best friends? Simple, we'll just call them something else.