Do you have a stable network up of close friends with which you can go to for advice or for conversation? Is this network made of friends of convenience or are they handpicked? Are your friends from childhood or from last week?
Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how much our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference. His conclusion was that the average person will replace half of their friends every seven years and that much of this is driven by circumstances, along with personal choice.
Work is a major factor for some. While working at a company you can develop a social network that is built on the commonality of work related issues. When you leave that employer, you have less in common. Often these relationships atrophy or just discontinue.
The same applies to friends that we made at school, church, or clubs. As we age and make new choices, the bonds weaken with many of our older friends. We have less and less in common. We lose touch with them by choice or maybe we are just negligent in our communication.
Also, there may no substitute for frequency of contact. Staying in touch and being available for others enables friendships to grow and flourish. Conversely, lack of communication can kill a friendship.
A new twist to retaining friendships is the advent of social networks like Facebook and Linkedin. These tools make staying a snap. It may be that retaining older friendships may have just gotten easier to do.
John Bradley Jackson
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