Friendship Coach Explains Why 'Weak Ties' Are Actually More Important For Happiness Than 'Besties'

Our closest friends are deeply important, but research shows casual friendships are just as integral to our well-being.

Danielle suggesting to create loose ties to others in your community to network, be happier @thefriendshipexpert / TikTok; congerdesign, DragonImages, Kenneth Carlson / Canva

When it comes to the so-called "loneliness epidemic" impacting people all over the world, most of us likely assume that close, intimate friendships are the antidote. But what if it's actually the opposite?

It may seem counterintuitive, but it turns out that casual relationships might actually be the key to a happier life — and their rapid disappearance might have a lot to do with why so many of us are feeling more isolated.


A friendship coach says that 'weak tie' friendships are in some ways actually more important than 'besties.'

That's a bold-sounding claim, of course. Who among us would ever trade our nearest and dearest friends for a casual acquaintance? But it turns out it's not an either/or proposition where one has to trade one type of friendship for the other. Rather, the two types of friendships work together to add very different but equally necessary things in our lives.

Danielle Bayard Jackson is a TikToker and friendship coach who helps people learn how to expand their friendship circles — a skill that all too many of us struggle with nowadays. In a recent TikTok, she explained just how vital casual acquaintances actually are to our happiness.




RELATED: A Woman's Therapist Recommends A Peer Support Person — 'It's Like Having A Friend That Gets Paid To Be Your Friend'

"There are close friends, and then there are... acquaintances, associates," she explained in her video. "The sociological term for people who are not our besties, but with whom we have, like, pleasant enough relationships is weak ties. Those are people who you enjoy, but who you see more infrequently and you have less intimacy with."

These are people like neighbors, coworkers, or fellow parents in the school pick-up line — the people who tend to fade into the background in our minds. But it turns out, they play a vital role in our well-being.


"According to research, people with more weak ties are happier and are less likely to have depression," Bayard Jackson explained, "because close friends are not the only kind of relationships that offer value to your life."

Sociologists say weak tie friendships enhance our lives by providing connections to resources and perspectives beyond our own.

"People who have a lot of weak ties, they probably have more access to resources they need, which keeps them happier and healthier," Bayard Jackson explained. A perfect example of this is situations like job-hunting, when an extensive network makes opportunities and access that much easier. 

But weak tie friendships also bring variety and diversity to our lives. As Bayard Jackson put it, people with lots of weak tie friendships "have a variety of perspectives, which makes them feel like their world is bigger, and they are getting affirmed for the various aspects of their intersectional identities, which means you probably feel seen more because you have a variety of people in your life."

RELATED: Single Mom's 'Old Man Neighbor' Comes Over To Check On Her Often Ever Since Her Own Dad Passed


The work of Stanford University professor Mark Granovetter, the sociologists who pioneered the study of weak tie friendships in the 1970s, has found that these casual ties do indeed help ward off loneliness, too, in part because they help us all be more empathetic. 

And a 2014 study at the UK's University of Cambridge found that people with a wide network of weak tie friendships were more happier overall, in part because they help foster a feeling of inclusivity and community.

The loss of weak tie friendships is one of the key impacts of the pandemic.

Think about the dark days of 2020 — your social circle probably shrank drastically in one way or another, if not several. Many of us lost coworker relationships nearly entirely as our jobs moved to at-home Zoom calls. Social gatherings shut down, church services went on hiatus, and even our daily interaction with our barista went dormant.

For many of us, these connections have never come back online as many of the changes the pandemic wrought have become permanent, whether because our jobs never returned to the office or we simply lost touch with casual acquaintances. 


And many of us haven't replaced them since things returned to some semblance of normalcy. 

A 2022 German study found that roughly one-third of us lost an acquaintance during the pandemic, and one-quarter of us lost touch with someone we actually considered a friend. Meanwhile, only 10-15% of us have made new acquaintances or friends since the pandemic. 

No wonder there's a loneliness epidemic — and it suddenly seems almost absurdly obvious why our social fabric seems to have eroded so intensely in recent years. The sort of connections that foster a strong community have been declining in America for a while now, but the situation has certainly degraded since 2020.


It seems that shoring up our supply of weak tie friendships just might be the antidote to not only our own loneliness but the fraying of our society, too.

As Bayard Jackson put it, "I need you to stop giving a stank face to your neighbors and your coworkers and those people who stand next to you at the dog park, and instead, I need you to start saying hello. Because it will be worth it."

RELATED: Dad Shares Why Striving For 'Romantic Love' Will Never Cure Our Loneliness — 'The Longing Is For Community, It's In Our DNA'

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.