Cultivate Connections

Do You Have #Hashtag Friends or Real Friends?

Having a cold is bad enough but for people who are lonely, it is even worse. It’s not that lonely people’s symptoms are worse, but according to recent research, lonely people experience their symptoms worse than people who aren’t lonely.

Researcher Angie LeRoy explained:

“Millions of people miss work each year because of it [the common cold]. And that has to do with how they feel, not necessarily with how much they’re blowing their noses.”

Having friends seems to make everything better. Popular people are more resilient, live longer and happier lives and report fewer severe symptoms of the common cold.

Yes, a BFF, according to research, helps build resilience and functions as a “protective mechanism” during tough times. In addition to providing support when the going gets tough, a good friend also boosts wellbeing in the absence of adversity. They bring out the best in us by encouraging full engagement and participation in opportunities for exploration, growth, and achievement. As the researchers emphasize, true friends serve as “active catalysts” for thriving.

Of course, true friends are different from hashtag friends. And when it comes to boosting wellness, friends are definitely not created equal. Facebook friends and Instagram followers are unlikely to have any bearing on your emotional or physical health whereas having a best friend can make a difference.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Mitch Prinstein, professor of psychology and neurology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, described the two kinds of popularity and suggested that most of us are investing in the wrong kind:

“Likability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior. Research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits.

Likability is markedly different from status – an ultimately less satisfying form of popularity that reflects visibility, influence, power, and prestige. Status can be quantified by social media followers; likability cannot.”

The distinction between likability and status is an important one. Likes on Facebook have nothing to do with likability. Likability is predicated on making an effort, on being responsive and understanding. A likable person is an “active catalyst” of goodness. The wise words of John Templeton come to mind:

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

I wish you all the best,

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