The 7 Types of Friends We’re All “Supposed” to Have

Are you able to complete this viral checklist?

A group of adult men and women standing with bikes and chairs on the side of the road.
TikTok says the average adult should have 7 close friends. But it's more complicated than that.
Ian Forsyth/Contributor/Getty Images

Recent surveys have painted a pretty bleak picture of the adult male friendship crisis. According to a 2021 report from the Survey Center on American Life, less than 50% of men are satisfied by their friendships, and only about 20% are likely to receive any emotional support from a friend in a given week. In other words: whatever friends adults can claim these days, they’re not particularly close with. And yet, according to a TikTok theory that went viral earlier this year, adults shouldn’t just have one close friend. They should have seven.

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What Is the “Seven Friends Theory”?

The #7FriendsTheory (with 13.3 million views to its name) lists out the seven core friend types that you’d ideally have handy in your inner circle. Here’s the list that’s bounced around the internet:

1. The friend you’ve had since you were little
2. The friend who makes you laugh in all situations
3. The friend you might not talk to for a long time, but nothing changes
4. The friend you can tell anything without judgment
5. The friend who feels like a sister (or brother)
6. The friend you can’t imagine not being in your life
7. The friend you share all of your dating/relationship problems with

The videos that endorse this theory usually feature emotional music and wholesome photos of the “protagonist” with each of their seven friends, perhaps on a wedding day. There are many things TikTok doesn’t take seriously, but the people who’ve participated in this trend really seem to identify with it.

Is It Legit?

Is there sociological research or scientific evidence to back up this exact number of friends (or these exact personality types/roles)? Well, no — this is simply an online invention that a lot of people have latched onto. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing, necessarily. The potency of intimate long-term connection is unrivaled; adults with close friends to rely on for a laugh, a call or a hug are less less lonely, less depressed, less susceptible to high blood pressure. Friends make life worth living and have the capacity to literally extend that life, to the tune of years. So if you happen to have these exact seven friends — however old you are — that’s fantastic. Cherish them. Make sure you’re checking a box for each and every one of them, too.

What to Keep in Mind

Still, as many skeptics of this theory have outlined in comments sections that this list is (a) not a recipe for a surefire social life and (b) may well reduce each of your friends to their very best traits. (Which is reductive, counterintuitive as it may seem. It posits you as the sun, with seven planets revolving around you.)

Friendship, of course, is far more confusing, malleable and imperfect than that. There is no right number. There is no person whose job it should be to make you laugh from now until forever. It is absolutely impossible to have a friend with none of these traits, or all of them, or a couple of them.

It’s notable that this trend has mostly been embraced by women, who have traditionally done a better job nurturing their relationships and carrying them throughout their lives. A good way to start doing that? Speak the relationship. Acknowledge it out loud. Say the things you feel.

While this list may be a bit absolutist, at least it exists. Someone, somewhere put words to the traits they appreciate. And even if it’s made some people feel more alone than ever in the comments of the videos (some are pretty heartbreaking), you have to imagine it’s because those commenters are yearning for people with these traits — not people, period. Maybe this will inspire them to seek out the sort of friendships they know they deserve, deep down.

As for the men out there, remember: not all close friends have to be new friends. Men are often encouraged to simply go join things, as if middle-age is identical to kindergarten and you can start over. But surely some of the characterizations on that list remind you of guys from throughout your life. Shoot them a text. Write them a letter. Start over. And grow your list from there — however long you choose to make it.

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