Think you know exactly who your ride-or-die friends are? According to a study conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, only 50 percent of your friends consider you a friend. Now excuse me while I go and cry.
The findings, which were recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, show that we may be confused about how many of our friendships are actually reciprocal. And I'm not talking just the "friends" who keep pushing back that coffee date you've had scheduled for months now.
It seems we believe that those we call our friends feel the same way about us by default. The paper's authors wrote that this misconception may be a result of self-protective thinking, "because the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one’s self-image." The research team collected data from six different surveys asking 600 students in the US, Israel, and Europe to rate the closeness of their friendships and whether they thought the relationships reciprocal. A whopping 95 percent of respondents believed that their friendships were a two-way street, but researchers found only 50 percent felt the same way comparatively. "It turns out that we’re very bad at judging who our friends are," Dr. Erez Shmueli, who helped lead the portion of research conducted in Israel, told The Telegraph (and simultaneously crushing all my dreams).
It's depressing to think that our perceptions are so off-base when it comes to how our besties may feel. Of course we want to be liked by all our supposed friends, but does it really matter?
"Reciprocal relationships are important because of social influence," Shmueli told The Telegraph. Findings from a separate survey indicated that we can only really be persuaded to do something by someone we consider a true friend. The results of a study that analyzed incentives for exercising showed that the best motivation to achieve goals comes from a friend's influence. "We found, not surprisingly, that those pressured by reciprocal friends exercised more and enjoyed greater progress than those with unilateral friendship ties," said Shmueli. The results of peer pressure surpassed even monetary motivation. It seems Dale Carnegie was right on the money with the title of his 1936 book "How To Win Friends And Influence People" — you will actually have to win true friends to influence people.
These findings have also unseated most of what teen flicks about high school have taught us to be true. Just because someone is viewed as popular, doesn't mean they have any more power to influence people. As described in the paper, researchers observed that the perception that "individuals with a high number of incoming friendship nominations are ‘influencers’ is flawed, and that such people are no better and often worse than average people at exerting social influence."
It seems if you want to be persuasive, you may have to work a bit harder from now on.