Marisa G Franco: “If there was a friendship article that broke the internet, it’s this one. NPR producer Rhaina Cohen explores what life would look like if we let ourselves repurpose the template of commitment typically applied to a spouse with a friend.”
The stories people save to Pocket reveal something unique—not only about what’s occupying our collective attention, but also about what we aspire to be. This year, our data showed a few key themes, including a renewed focus on deepening friendships and connections.
This was simply not a passing interest in reconnecting IRL after a few years of pandemic solitude. Interest in friendship was evident across Pocket’s most popular pieces, like The Grown-Up’s Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, our top collection of 2022, and The Trait That ‘Super Friends’ Have in Common, one of our top stories of the year. So we asked Dr. Marisa G Franco—the New York Times bestselling author of Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends—to lead us through some of the best writing on friendship that the internet has to offer, from urban planning’s effects on connection to exercises for your “social muscles.” – Pocket team
I love friendship. I love it because it is flexible; friends can be mere acquaintances or life partners. I love friends for the way they act as time capsules for who we were, inviting past selves we only access in their company. I love friends because we choose them—not because of blood or legal commitment, but because they trigger feelings of joy and safety. This reverence for friendship is what led me to write Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends, to use my Counseling Psychology Ph.D. to study connection, to teach about loneliness at The University of Maryland, and to speak on connection within and outside of work.
It’s gratifying to see such excitement around friendship this year—it’s certainly not a new topic, nor is it as marketable as romantic love (speaking of: where are our Hallmark holiday movies about friendship?) But a deep interest in reading and learning about real friendships, like what you’ve seen from Pocket readers this year, is more than a feel-good trend.
We don’t always recognize loneliness for the social ill that it is, but lonely people live much shorter lifespans. Their mental health is much worse. They’re more hostile and aggressive and even violent. They’re more prejudiced. And they’re even more likely to mistrust social institutions, like the government. This isn’t to stigmatize loneliness because, according to some data, most of us are lonely. But we need to acknowledge that a healthy society requires that people’s fundamental social need to connect is fulfilled.
Embedded in the DNA of being human is being inherently social. We can try to suppress this need with these proclamations of individualism, wherein we think we don't need anyone, but the cost of that is grave. Each and every one of us needs connection and it’s time for us to lean into that. I hope that my book, and these reads below, can help us all lean into that need for connection and the actions we can all take towards a less lonely world. –Dr. Marisa G Franco
MGF: “Our attachment style affects our romantic life, as many Hinge profiles remind us, and yet, there’s a treasure trove of research linking attachment to patterns in friendship. Securely attached people make and keep more friends, and my article reveals their secrets.”
MGF: “An accessible report on data outlining the current landscape of friendship, uncovering such tragic gems as: 4x as many people report having no friends in 2021, compared to 1990, and half of Americans have three or fewer friends.”
MGF: “A raw and insightful look into the shattering grief of lost friendship. Jennifer Senior ponders and normalizes the existential tragedy of friendship endings: ‘it is normal for friendships to fade, even under the best of circumstances. The real aberration is keeping them.’”
MGF: “Why are we so lonely? A fresh and surprising answer, examining how urban sprawl and too much car time are culprits. Each limit chance interactions that oil connections.”
MGF: “The right meal has variety: protein, leafy greens, carbohydrates. Similarly, we need the same variety in friendships, a balance called ‘social nutrition:’ deep intimate connection, alongside shallow conversation, and a healthy dose of alone time.”
MGF: “Since the pandemic, have you been haunted by the niggling hunch your friends secretly hate you? If so, you may be suffering from friendship doubt and rest assured, it’s a totally normal symptom of (post)-/pandemic life.”
MGF: “Exercise for physical health, meditate for mental health, but what about social health? Social health is the part of well-being derived from connection. Talk on the phone, commit acts of kindness, and read about more science-backed ways to stay socially healthy.”
MGF: “Working from home has many benefits, but plentiful work friends are not one of them. And yet, employees who feel connected perform better, take fewer sick days, and are even less likely to switch jobs. Workplace speaker Smiley Poswolsky unveils how workplaces can and must cultivate connection.”
MGF: “We tend to think of friends as a ‘nice to have,’ yet philosopher Hannah Arendt argued friendships are vital for democracy. This piece details Arendt’s philosophy that totalitarianism is predicated on isolation and dehumanization; friendship, then—in fostering collective action and humanization—is its antidote.”
Go deeper on how we can invest in our friendships. Buy the NYT bestseller now.
Dr. Marisa G Franco
An enlightening psychologist, international speaker, and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Marisa G Franco is known for digesting and communicating science in ways that resonate deeply enough with people to change their lives. She works as a professor at The University of Maryland and authored Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends. She writes about friendship for Psychology Today and has been a featured connection expert for major publications like The New York Times, The Telegraph, and Vice. She speaks on belonging at corporations, government agencies, non-profits, and universities.
For tips on friendship, you can follow her on Instagram DrMarisaGFranco, or go to her website, DrMarisaGFranco.com, where you can take a quiz to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a friend & reach out for speaking engagements.