Fringe Friends Are A Vital Part Of A Well-Rounded Social Life — Here’s Why

You have your core group of close friends and you wouldn’t trade them for the world. And while they form the foundation of your support group, there’s another group of people that can also make your life better: fringe friends. Read on to find out what they are, how you benefit from these relationships, and how to foster more of them in your daily life.

What are fringe friends?

Simply put, fringe friends are the people you know and get along well enough with on a surface level. You say hi to each other when you happen to run into each other at the office or when out and about. However, unlike your ride-or-die friends, you don’t text, call, or really hang out with fringe friends. It’s not that you’re against interacting with them on a deeper level, that’s just not the relationship you have with them.

Fringe friends can be anyone from classmates or colleagues to a friend of a friend or someone in your extended social circle. You’re not super pally with each other, but you also wouldn’t feel comfortable not saying hi or stopping for a quick chat when you see each other. That would just be awkward and seem kinda rude. You like them, you just don’t know them know them, if you get me.

Why fringe friendships matter

You might think that since you’re not close with your fringe friends, they don’t add any real value to your life. That’s not true at all. Even though you’re not spilling your guts to each other about the intimate details of your life, there are still plenty of benefits to having these casual connections.

  1. Fringe friends widen your social circle. It’s great to have a close-knit group of true blue friends you know are there for you through thick and thin. You need a few people who truly know you and with whom you feel comfortable expressing your deepest thoughts and feelings. However, it helps to have other people you sorta-kinda know as it means you’ll have far more social opportunities. After all, a fringe friend might invite you to a big party where you end up meeting someone who ends up becoming a close friend or even a romantic partner.
  2. They broaden your perspective. You might not have enough in common to ever become proper friends, but fringe connections expose you to different perspectives and world views. Whether or not you’re picking up what they’re putting down, broadening your horizons makes you a more empathetic, sympathetic, well-rounded person.
  3. They ward off loneliness. Numerous studies have proven that fringe friendships have positive effects on your health. In particular, they can alleviate collective loneliness, which springs up when we’re not part of a wider group having a shared experience. You might be in the same improv class at your fringe friend or maybe you’re both bridesmaids for your best friend’s wedding. By having a loose connection with them, it can help you feel a lot less alone.
  4. They make you feel more connected. In addition to warding off loneliness, fringe friends make you feel like you’re part of the wider world, in a weird way. Sure, you feel connected to your best friends, but that can become very insular. By having more casual acquaintances, you feel freer and more open.
  5. They make you happier. It’s true — science proves it. Fringe friendships make you a lot happier and also boost your self-esteem. That’s probably largely due to the fact that you feel more connected and less lonely, as noted above.
  6. Fringe friends could become real friends. Hey, just because you’re very distantly connected at the moment doesn’t mean there’s no potential there for a real friendship. You might really get along if you had more of a chance to chat. The door is always open, in any case.

How to foster more of these connections

  1. Get out more/do more stuff. This is a pretty simple way to get more fringe friends. The more social stuff you do, the more likely you are to come across people you didn’t know previously and form a basic connection. Take classes, join groups, go places. The more you do things in group settings, even if the people in that group start off as strangers, the more opportunities you’ll have to make acquaintances.
  2. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with strangers. When you’re at your book club or the gym, for instance, don’t be shy about striking up conversations. Find something to connect with them about, whether it’s how much you both love “Harry Potter” or how hard Tuesday’s spin class was. It may never go beyond that, but you’ll recognize each other the next time you see each other and you’ll be cool with saying hi.
  3. Always acknowledge a friendly face. Once you do make a connection with someone, follow up on it. You don’t have to actively seek the person out unless you’re aiming for a proper friendship with them. Instead, just make sure to acknowledge them whenever you do run into each other. The more often you do this, the less awkward you’ll feel about it.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill