Snap Inc. eleased a global study of 10,000 people across Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, U.K., and the U.S. to explore how culture, age, and technology shape preferences and attitudes around friendship.
Ten experts on friendship from around the world contributed to the report to contextualize the data.
“Snapchat was designed from the outset as a platform to enable self-expression and deeper relationships with your real friends, which has driven our interest in the complexities around friendship and differences across cultures,” said Amy Moussavi, Snap Inc. head of consumer insights. “While friendship looks very different across the world, we know it plays a central role in our happiness and we remain deeply committed to finding new ways to celebrate and elevate it through Snapchat."
Across all markets surveyed, people’s average social circle consists of 4.3 best friends, 7.2 good friends, and 20.4 acquaintances. Globally, most people meet their life-long best friend at the average age of 21. Respondents noted that “honesty” and “authenticity” are the most important qualities of a best friend and “having a large social network to tap into” is of least importance when making friends.
The Friendship Report sheds new light on the nature of friendship, including:
● How different cultures interpretation of friendship impacts friendship circles and values.
● How friendship is linked to happiness, but that the nuances of what we share and how we feel when we talk to friends can vary substantially based on our circle size, gender, generation, and more.
● The generation we’re born into heavily influences our attitudes towards friendship—and that Gen Z is adjusting their approach away from the millennial desire for widespread networks in favor of the closeness and intimacy of a smaller group.
“The big thing that differentiates friendships from other relationships is the fact that they’re voluntary,” said Miriam Kirmayer, therapist and friendship researcher. “Unlike relationships with our family, partners, and children, there is no outright expectation with our friends that we have to stay involved in each other’s lives. We continuously need to choose to invest in our friendships—to remain involved and to show up. It’s an ongoing implicit choice that makes our friendships so hugely impactful for our sense of happiness and self-esteem.”
A sampling of insights gained from this global survey include:
● In India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, people report having three times the number of best friends than those in European countries, the U.S., and Australia. Saudi Arabia has the highest average number of best friends at 6.6, whereas the U.K. has the lowest at 2.6. People in the U.S. have the second lowest average number at 3.1 best friends, and are more likely than any other country to report having only one best friend.
● Having friends who are “intelligent and cultured” is more valued by those in India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, whereas being “non-judgmental” matters more to those in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
● Those in India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia are four times more likely than other regions to say that a “large social network” is an essential quality to have in a best friend. In fact, on average globally, “having a large social network” is the least important quality people seek out in a best friend.
Friendship Circles and Communication
● Globally, 88% of people enjoy talking to their friends online. Our respondents were able to select multiple options to explain what they enjoy about online communication, and there is agreement about the benefits. Across all regions, 32% of people chose the ability to “talk to their friends faster and more easily” as their favored explanation.
● Interacting with friends, whether in person or online, leaves us feeling overwhelmingly positive emotions: “happy,” “loved,” and “supported” are the three most reported globally. However, women are more likely to report feeling these emotions than men following online conversations.
● We see that when it comes to the average number of types of friends, users of more public platforms have larger groups of connections, but less true friends than those who prefer private communication platforms. Snapchat users have the highest number of “best friends” and “close friends,” and the fewest number of “acquaintances,” while Facebook users have the fewest number of “best friends;” and Instagram users have the highest number of “acquaintances.”
● Globally, Gen Z and millennials are unsurprisingly emphatic in their love for talking with friends online—only 7% and 6% respectively said they don’t enjoy it, compared with 13% of Gen X and 26% of baby boomers. Younger generations also see value in visual communication—61% believe that video and photos help them to express what they want to say in a way that they can’t with words.
● Throughout the research, millennials globally come out on top as the most “share happy" of the generations. Millennials are the least likely to say “I wouldn’t share that” across all categories surveyed. Millennials will also share issues publicly via platforms like Instagram or Facebook more than any other generation. Furthermore, they are more likely to want a best friend who has an extensive social network. Millennials are also more likely to want “as many friends as possible” than any other generation.
● Gen Z doesn’t appear to following in millennials’ footprints, rather they are seeking intimacy in their friendships, and craving open and honest relationships more than any other generation.
● Boomers are the most conservative with regards to the topics they discuss with their best friends, contrasted again by millennials. More than one-third of boomers say they wouldn’t talk about their love life (45%), mental health (40%), or money concerns (39%) with their best friend. Only 16%, 21%, and 23% of millennials wouldn’t talk to their best friends about these same topics, respectively.