“Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience,” study co-author Joseph Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, said in a statement. “Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships. And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later.”
Despite how important it is to building friendships that go past the surface level, Time reports many of us are experiencing fewer of these intimate bonds. According to the magazine, a survey from 1985 showed that the majority of people had three friends who were considered close. In 2004, most people claimed to have zero close friends.
It’s not always easy, but developing deep, lasting friendships can happen at any stage in life. LIke all relationships, they take time to form and need to be prioritized (just like time with family or your significant other). Allen believes that with the influx of virtual friendships it’s more important than ever to make friends in real life (and not just on Instagram).
“As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority,” he said.