Becoming fast friends takes time.
You have to spend about 50 hours with someone before you can consider them an acquaintance; 90 hours before you consider them a real friend; and around 200 hours of hanging out before they reach BFF status, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, as reported by The Cut.
The two-part study surveyed 429 online volunteers who had moved within the past six months to identify someone they had met in their new location. The subjects noted how long ago they met, how much time they spent together in a typical week, and they also rated the prospective friend on how close they considered them to be, on a scale from “acquaintance” or “friend of a friend” up to “good” or “best friend.” The researchers also asked 112 new college freshman to select two new friends they had met on campus and tasked them with filling out a similar questionnaire. The students tracked how long they spent with the new buds over a few weeks, and rated how close they became during that time.
Researchers found that it takes 90 hours on average for someone to be considered a friend. The study also found that not all time spent with someone is accounted equally when it comes to the science of friendship. There are two kinds of relationships that form: “relationships of choice,” which lead researcher Jeffrey Hall from the University of Kansas described to The Cut as, “ones we want to have and would prefer to have if unconstrained,” and “closed-system relationships,” that you have with people you inevitably must see, like neighbors and colleagues. For example, most people probably have spent 200 hours alongside a deskmate at work, but they wouldn’t necessarily ask them to grab coffee or cocktails.
“There are many obligatory relationships we have at work and school or even in our neighborhood or apartment building,” Hall told The Cut, adding that they “require us to engage — at least at a minimal level — in a courteous manner with people who we wouldn’t necessarily choose to be friends with.”
Hall points out that people are more likely to form meaningful friendships during times of change — like a move or a new job. Other research suggests that an acquaintance turns into a friend after around three to nine weeks after meeting — and if you don’t become friends then, you probably won’t ever. Relationship experts say that people are more likely to click with each other based on similar interests and values. And interacting with friends feels good too — it relieves stress, and releases dopamine.
It’s also worth noting that your social circle will shrink significantly after age 25 and up, according to a separate study from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England. And women reportedly lose friends faster than men — the average 25-year-old woman contacts about 17 people per month, while a man contacts 19.