The Viral '7 Friends Theory' Proves You Don't Need An Army Of Acquaintances

In adulthood, good friends can be harder to come by than good dates — and that's saying something. As the city office has been replaced by work-from-home arrangements for many of us, the ability to make new friends seems to be diminishing by the minute. Compare your list of friends now to the probably much longer list you had in school or college, and you're bound to wonder if you should be expanding your social circle.

But as it happens, we don't actually need long lists of friends to be content. While friendship is a powerful and non-negotiable piece of the happiness puzzle, it's the quality of those friends that matters; not the number of them.

Popularized on social media, the "7 friends theory" suggests that you actually only need seven friends, as long as they all fill a particular role in your life. TikTok user Allie Worton demonstrated how the theory applies in her own life by listing the seven roles or qualities of the rule alongside a picture of the friend that brings that energy into her life. The theory goes that as long as you have someone to fulfil the core traits — like making you laugh or listening to your relationship problems — you'll be good to go in the friendship department.

The seven friendship roles

According to the theory, there are seven roles that your friends should fill. The first is the friend you've had since you were little. While you can't exactly go out and create a new one of these, you can make the effort to reconnect with someone you've drifted from along the way. The second role is a friend who can make you laugh at all times — in this dreary world, we say that one's priceless.

You will also need a friend whom you can go a long time without talking to but things still don't change between you, and of course, a friend you can tell absolutely anything to and they won't judge you. Next, you'll need a friend who's like a sister to you, a friend you can't imagine not being friends with, and finally, a friend who knows all your love life dirty laundry. This person is your sounding board when you need to vent about relationship drama, and they're there for you, even if they secretly don't want to listen to the same drama again and again.

Some TikTok users have taken to the comment sections of videos like Allie Worton's to point out that they have friends who fill multiple rolls. In other words, their friend who is like a sister is also the same person who can always make them laugh. Others note that they don't even come close to having seven friends. So if you fall into the latter category, does that mean you're doomed to a life of unhappiness?

What if you don't have seven friends?

While the theory makes some people feel better for not having a never-ending list of friends, others have been left feeling even more insecure because they have fewer than seven friends. But that's okay, too.

As the discussions on TikTok's comment sections show, numbers and specifics aren't important. You don't need seven friends, per se, as long as you have those seven types of energies in your life. It may be that you only have two friends, but they fulfill every role that the theory outlines. The role descriptions are broad and may not directly apply to you, but the concepts behind them are still valid. For example, you might not have a friend who feels like a sister because of their gender identity, but they still are close enough to feel like family.

But if you don't have all seven types of energy in your life, don't panic! Other theories suggest that the ideal number of friends you need in your life is actually closer to somewhere between three and five. According to Social Self, studies have shown that this number of friends is enough to leave you feeling happy and fulfilled. In 2021, the Survey Center on American Life found that nearly half of Americans had three of fewer close friends, so don't be fooled by social media posts that make it seem like your friendships are lacking compared to everyone else. You don't need an army of friends to be happy, and you're probably in good company with the handful you have.