Fringe Friends: The Importance Of Keeping Connections Outside Of Your Inner Circle

Everyone knows that friendships are essential. From making you feel loved and accepted, giving you a social life, and providing listening ears and shoulders to cry on, having friends can make your life happier and more enjoyable. And between Saweetie and Doja Cat's catchy, dance-worthy "Best Friend" and the adorably iconic "True Friend" from "Hannah Montana," there are even many songs about friendship, as these platonic connections are a relatable source of inspiration for music.

In TV and movies, we frequently see two types of friendships pop up the most. First, we have the "ride-or-die" best friends consisting of two people who prioritize each other over anyone else and will do anything for each other — whether healthy and realistic or not. Then, there are the "friend groups" or "squads," typically consisting of five to 10 people who have countless inside jokes and go on many exciting adventures together. But what about fringe friends? This lower-pressure, lighter type of friendship is underrated and more beneficial than you'd initially think.

Fringe friendships are casual and low-pressure

A fringe friendship is not a new form of friends with benefits or a weird TikTok trend; it's just a light, casual friendship with relatively low expectations. "We also call this subset of people companionate friends ... they're the ones who might be in your soccer league or improv class and whom you may really enjoy being around, but they also aren't people whom you'd typically keep in touch with outside of that setting," Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., told Well + Good. You probably already have at least one fringe friend and didn't even know there was a name for that type of friendship.

So, you know those two girls who you always see at your partner's monthly Friday night parties — you don't know their last names or birthdays — that you hug hello as soon as you recognize them and engage in light discussions about the weather, your jobs, what you've been watching on Netflix, and your favorite drinks at the party? They're fringe friends. Or that guy you always sit next to and joke around with in your weekly cooking class? He's a fringe friend. Fringe friendships are enjoyable because it's fun to have these people to talk to without having to know their whole life stories.

Friend groups get dramatic

Of course, being part of a friend group or "girl gang" can make you feel loved and popular at any age. It's fun to be part of a group chat with four or more close companions and have multiple good friends to make plans with every weekend. But friend groups aren't all fun and games, especially if you have a frenemy in the group. Even if you don't, these tight-knit circles can still get cliquey and dramatic.

You and your squad wanted to grab dinner and go clubbing on Friday night. You already bought the perfect outfit and revolved your week around those plans by working late each evening to ensure you can leave at 5 p.m. on Friday. But on Thursday night, you get a text from a friend in your group explaining that she got into an argument with another friend from the squad. Suddenly, your phone fills up with messages, as everyone is taking sides. Not only are you in an awkward situation, but now the group doesn't want to go out together until the drama gets resolved. So, you end up sitting on your couch on Friday night while your new outfit sits in your closet. Everyone who's ever been part of a close-knit group has likely experienced a scenario like that. But if you have a fringe friend, you could contact them for some easy-going, drama-free conversation or plans instead.

Best friendships can also get complicated

Thanks to today's "ride-or-die" culture, everyone feels the need to have — and hold onto — a best friend forever. Some people even talk about the mental health implications of not having a best friend. Of course, having a best friend has some incredible perks, such as experiencing platonic love, having someone to talk to about anything, and being someone's go-to-slash-first-choice friend. But best friendships have a lot of pressure. Sometimes, the closer you get with a friend, the more something can go wrong, and the more disappointing — and at times painful — it can be if that friendship doesn't last or work out.

Just think of some of the most famous fictional best friendships that went from beautiful and happy to very toxic. One of the most romanticized examples is the dynamic between Blair and Serena from "Gossip Girl." While their friendship had some sweet moments, and they arguably loved each other in a platonic way, the relationship was filled with betrayal and insecurity. For instance, Serena slept with Blair's partner, and Blair said many hurtful words to Serena and called her offensive names. While some viewers perceive this fictional friendship as "iconic," it's dramatic and unhealthy. Unhealthy best-friend dynamics like Blair and Serena's are painful, while fringe friendships are light and easy, so you should spend more time with your fringe friends if you find yourself in a toxic best friendship.

Fringe friends can help you keep a more open mind

People tend to be friends with others who have a lot in common with them. That isn't always the case, but it typically tends to work out that way because those similar interests or personality traits can lead to natural understanding and bonding. There's nothing wrong with having friends who are a lot like you, but it's good to have friends with other points of view, and these different friends are often in the "fringe friend" category. "Fringe friends can broaden our lives by allowing social ties with people different from ourselves whom we might not ordinarily seek out as close friends," Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist-slash-friendship expert, told Well + Good.

For example, maybe your primary friend group is made up of picky eaters, so you limit your dining experiences to ordering plain pizzas or grabbing burgers. If you become more curious about different restaurants, your picky friends still might not want to try other foods with you. But maybe your fringe friends from cooking class want to grab sushi at a new place that your primary group would never want to try; because of fringe friends, you have people to go to the restaurant with. Or, maybe your friend group doesn't watch scary movies, but you'd be willing to try seeing one. If you made a fringe friend at a party who enjoys horror films, you'll have someone to watch it with.

The light fringe friendship could potentially get deeper or turn into more if you want

As mentioned earlier, it's good to have low-pressure fringe friends, which can be a refreshing break from more intense close friendships. We've all had that trauma-dumping friend who sometimes treats you more like a therapist, which gets stressful and happens so frequently that there are even TikToks about the concept. These boundaries will be less likely to get blurred with low-key fringe friends, and the friendship will likely stay light and fun.

However, fringe friendships could get deeper if you want them to; this doesn't happen all the time, but never say never. For instance, if you and a fringe friend are similar in that you both don't have many close friends and get lonely, you should try having deeper conversations and spending more time together to build a stronger bond. Maybe you'll end up becoming besties or at least closer friends. Fringe friendships can also take romantic turns. Many close friends who catch feelings don't pursue a relationship because they worry that if dating doesn't work out, their deep friendship will get awkward or ruined. But if you develop a crush on a fringe friend, you'll have less to lose, so tell them how you feel.