Indians seem more open to making friends than most people in the world. A study by photo messaging app Snapchat Inc., says Indians, on an average, have six best friends. This is higher than the global average of 4.3 and the third highest figure in the world, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE notching up 6.6 and 6.4, respectively.
The study "The Friendship Report", which has been compiled by engaging 10,000 nationally representative people aged 13-75 in Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US, has been broken down into the four main generation groups -- Gen Z (aged 13-23), millennials or Gen Y (aged 24-39), Gen X (aged 40-54) and Boomers (aged 55-75).
The trend, however, is changing with younger generations. Gen Z is turning away from such large friendship circles, with the lowest average (5.2) compared to Gen X having the most (7.5). They are also slightly less likely to want as many friends as possible than Gen Y, (44% to 46%), more likely to want a small friendship group of people they can trust (23% compared to 20%) and twice as likely as Gen Y to not be interested in friendships (4%).
Currently though, not only do people in India have more friends overall, they also want more, says the report, with 45% of respondents indicating they would like to expand their social circle. That is perhaps explained by the positive emotions Indians are left with after interactions with friends either online or in person: ranging from ‘loved’ (55% in person versus 43% online), to ‘happy’ (48% in person versus 46% online), and ‘supported’ (43% in person versus 36% online).
Indians seem quite eager to make friends, 23% became best friends at “first like". A third of Indians also say that their best friend is the opposite sex, more than any other country outside of the US.
“If you want to understand why there is such a high number of people in India saying their best friend is of the opposite sex, you need to understand that friendship does not exist in a vacuum. In this instance, this opposite sex friendship is growing in India, and it has come about because romantic relationships have changed," said Amit Desai, lecturer in the department of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Men can now conceive of a woman being their best friend and vice versa, which did not happen before, and we now have friendship groups of men and women mixing, going out, and dating where previously they were segregated."
Regardless of generation, almost two-thirds of Indians consider honesty an important trait to have in a friend (63%), though it is valued most by older generations (73%) and least by Gen Z (60%), who also value humour and lightheartedness (47%) --- the highest of any generation.
Dynamics of communicating with friends has evolved over a period of time, and unlike earlier generations, 26% of Gen Z and Gen Y see technology as a boon that enables them to have more honest and open conversation, 25% Gen Y believes chatting through apps has brought them closer to their friends.
73% of Indians say that video and photos help them express things they can’t with words, especially in situations where they don’t share a native language with their friends; 29% of those from India state that communicating through the camera is more effective.
“Any medium that allows us to share both verbal and non-verbal behaviour, like video, can help us feel closer and more connected and to navigate relationship challenges with clarity," said Miriam Kirmayer, an American therapist and Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology specializing in interpersonal relationships adding that research shows that even things like emojis can help replace the subtlety of emotion and intent which is often lost in online conversations.