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Why 'weak ties' are more important than best friends, according to a friendship expert

There's more to life than besties.

weak ties, friendship
@thefriendshipexpert/TikTok

Go say hello to an acquaintance today

What is the cure for loneliness?

One might be tempted to say close, intimate relationships. Which is true to a certain degree, but as counterintuitive as it may seem firsthand, those more distant friendships can be just as meaningful.

In fact, according to friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson, those in our outer circle can contribute even more to our happiness than our besties.

Bayard Jackson is a go-to source when it comes to creating healthy, fulfilling platonic friendships. Her advice has been featured in the “New York Times”, “Wall Street Journal,” “Washington Post” and “Psychology Today,” just to name a few.

Being an expert in the realm of close bonds, it might come as a surprise that Bayard Jackson touted the benefits of what she calls “weak ties” in a recent video posted to her TikTok page. But she brings up some great points.

"There are close friends, and then there are... acquaintances, associates," she explains. "The sociological term for people who are not our besties, but with whom we have, like, pleasant enough relationships is weak ties. Those are people who you enjoy, but who you see more infrequently and you have less intimacy with."

For example—coworkers, parents you only see at certain school functions, neighbors, maybe even classmates. The NPCs of your life, if you will. We might not consider these people close friends, but they still play a vital role to our wellbeing, Bayard Jackson attests.

"According to research, people with more weak ties are happier and are less likely to have depression,” she said, adding that people with a lot of weak ties have more access to resources and critical information needed to improve their life.

@thefriendshipexpert

The beauty of “weak ties”

♬ original sound - Danielle Bayard Jackson

Not only that, but those with a bigger friend circle receive a wider variety of perspectives, “making them feel like their world is bigger,” as well as affirmation for the “various aspects of their intersectional identities,” meaning they probably “feel seen” more often.

In other words—“close friends are not the only kind of relationships that offer value to your life.”

Some of the research Bayard Jackson alludes to might include that of sociologist Mark Granovetter, who first began pioneering the theory that weak ties could strengthen job opportunities, since they introduce new ideas and broaden one’s social network.

Subsequent studies on the subject have confirmed that, regardless of nationality or age, weak ties also help one feel a sense of belonging, and contribute to a sense of emotional well being.

It’s an interesting take, especially coming during a time when it might feel like weak ties are all we have, thanks to social media. After all, most of us are probably much more likely to comment on an audience's Instagram post than we are to actually call up a close friend to have an hour long in depth conversation.

via GIPHY

But it’s also undeniable that outside of the social media watering hole, our weak tie friendships might have severely dwindled during the pandemic, and have probably continued to go unfostered as we’ve navigated a shift towards working from home. Maybe this is partially due to the fact that we haven’t acknowledged how important they are.

It’s not often that quantity trumps quality, but this seems to be one of those rare cases. If we really want to start feeling less lonely, and a little bit better about ourselves, we might want to consider putting the effort into strengthening those weak ties. Luckily, it doens’t have to be that hard.

As Bayard Jackson suggests, "stop giving a stank face to your neighbors and your coworkers and those people who stand next to you at the dog park, and instead, I need you to start saying hello. Because it will be worth it."

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