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Snap study finds Indians have amongst the largest groups of friends in the world, but Gen Z is starting to buck the trend

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MUMBAI: Snap Inc. today released a global study of 10,000 people across Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US 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 contextualise the data.

“Snapchat’s commitment to enabling self-expression and connecting real friends compelled us to explore the attitudes, values and perceptions that shape friendship across cultures and generations,” said Amy Moussavi, Snap Inc. head of consumer insights. “While friendship may be different across regions and age groups, it plays a universally central role in our happiness and we are committed to finding new ways to celebrate and elevate it through Snapchat."

The Friendship Report sheds new light on the nature of friendship, including:

● How different cultures’ interpretation of friendship impacts friendship circles: people in India, the Middle East and SouthEast Asia report having three times the number of best friends as those in Australia, Europe and the U.S.

● How friendship is linked to happiness and how those without friends or with overly large friendship groups find it more difficult to talk about their problems or share when they are feeling low

● How we consider and form friendships is most heavily shaped by when, rather than where we are born: Gen Z in the US have more in common with Boomers in India than their own grandparents

● Gen Z are adjusting their approach to friendship away from the Millennial desire for widespread networks and are looking for more closeness and intimacy with a smaller group

In India, friendship is the most celebrated human relationship with a wealth of popular culture - from songs to movies - extolling its influence on our lives. The Friendship Report also provides an insight into how Indians think of and relate to their friends compared to the rest of the world.

Indians have more best friends

Indians have on average six best friends. Only Saudi Arabians have more with 6.6, while the UK ranks the lowest with an average of only 2.6. Interestingly, not only do people in India have more friends overall, they also want more; with 45% of respondents indicating they would like to expand their social circle. In the report, Amit Desai, a lecturer of anthropology at the London School of Economics suggested that the approach to friendship differs from ‘the East’ to ‘the West.’ He explains that in Western Europe and North America, “friendship is about finding people who are like you and bonding over your similarities.” In many Asian countries, including India, he says friendship is more relational and focuses on seeking out an array of new and different friends who bring alternative but complementary qualities to the relationship.

Gen Z is turning away from large friendship circles

This approach is changing for the youngest generations however; Gen Z is starting to turn 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%). Gen Z are also half as likely as Gen Y to consider friends having a large social group they can tap into, to be an important trait.

Love is central to friendship in India

Whether in person or online, interactions with friends leave Indians with overwhelmingly positive emotions; ‘loved’ (55% in person versus 43% online), ‘happy’ (48% in person versus 46% online), and ‘supported’ (43% in person versus 36% online) are the three most reported.

Indians are most ready to fall fast for a friend, 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. Amit Desai has researched friendship in India extensively and believes that the shift is down to a change in romantic relationships. He suggests that while marriages in urban India have traditionally been arranged by parents, increasingly young people are seeing marriage in romantic terms that include dating, falling in love and having a spouse that is also your friend.

Honesty is the best policy

The report shows that regardless of generation, almost two-thirds of Indians consider honesty an important trait to have in a friend (63%). This does vary slightly by generation, however, being 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.

A picture paints a thousand words

The report also suggests that video and photos can also be an aid in clarity; 73% of Indians say that video and photos help them to express what they want to say in a way that they can’t with words. Unsurprisingly, video and images also help people to express themselves 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.

This could be to do with language barriers. Globally, India, Malaysia, and the UAE were the regions least likely to say they grew up speaking the same language as all of their friends, and in these countries, 24% of people state that communicating through the camera reduces language barriers. Regardless of language differences, an average of 56% of people from all countries love sending video and photos because it helps them to say what they can’t with words.

Miriam Kirmayer, an American Therapist and Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology specializing in interpersonal relationships says that, “Any medium that allows us to share both verbal and non-verbal behavior, like video, can help us to feel closer and more connected and to navigate relationship challenges with clarity.” She also suggests that research shows that even things like emojis can help to replace the subtlety of emotion and intent which is often lost in online conversations.

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