The 'One Good Friend' Theory & What It Means For Uncool People

Author and educator Vanessa Kroll Bennet mythbusts a few theories about popularity.

Doubled image of two young women smiling together Unsplash

Ever caught wind of the "One Good Friend Theory"? It's based on research — and, ultimately, it makes it totally OK to be unpopular

Yes, with one solid buddy in your corner, making a serious impact on your happiness and well-being.

The theory dives into the concept that having that one reliable and understanding friend can be a game-changer for your personal growth, emotional fortitude, and the way you navigate the social scene.


RELATED: How To Help A Teen Who Has Very Few Friends & Is Suffering With Loneliness

What is the 'One Good Friend' theory?

The 'One Good Friend' Theory is all about saying that having one real friend is better than having lots of not-so-real ones. It's like saying that having a deep, true connection with someone is more important than just having a bunch of people around you. This idea suggests that having one good and trustworthy friend can be way more satisfying and supportive than having many friends who are not really there for you.


The conversation started on a recent episode of the podcast "Open Relationships: Transforming Together" when Puberty Educator Vanessa Kroll Bennet stated, "There's this mythology in our society that adolescents need a gang of friends, you need to have a crew... but a kid only needs one quality friendship to get the benefits that you read about affecting counterbalancing mental health and academic performance and a sense of belonging and all of that. They just need one trusted friend."

Bennet should know! She is a mom herself of teens and grown kids, as well as co-author of the best-selling book This Is So Awkward with Dr. Cara Natterson. They've studied what truly helps young people thrive — and we believe we can extrapolate this out to adult friendships, too! 

This theory goes against the usual thinking that having lots of friends and being super popular makes you happy.

Instead, it says that having a true friend matters more than the number of friends you have. It's a different way of looking at success in relationships.


For people who might not be seen as 'cool' by society's standards, this theory is kind of like saying, "Hey, it's okay. You don't need to fit in with everyone. Having one real friend is cooler than trying to be popular."

It encourages these individuals to focus on building one genuine connection that goes beyond what people might think on the surface.

So, in simple terms, the 'One Good Friend' Theory is like a reminder to look for quality in friendships rather than quantity. It suggests that having a friend who really gets you is much better than trying to impress a whole bunch of people. It's a cool way of saying, "Be yourself, find that one true friend, and that's what really matters."

6 Ways The 'One Good Friend' Theory Is Better For All Of Us 

1. It emphasizes quality over quantity

The 'One Good Friend' theory argues that having a single meaningful connection is more valuable than a large group of acquaintances. For individuals deemed 'uncool' by societal norms, this theory emphasizes the significance of deep, authentic bonds over surface-level interactions.


2. It prioritizes authenticity 

In a society that often links coolness with popularity, individuals who don't fit the conventional mold can find comfort in the idea that quality matters more than quantity.

The theory encourages 'uncool' individuals to focus on nurturing genuine connections that provide support, understanding, and true companionship.

RELATED: 5 Shame-Free Ways To Help Your Video Game-Loving Kid Embrace IRL Friendships, Too

3. It values friendships that go beyond surface features

This theory challenges the notion that popularity equals happiness. Instead, it suggests that genuine happiness comes from authentic connections rather than the number of friends one has.


'Uncool' individuals can find empowerment in knowing that they are defined by the depth of their connections, not their social status.

4. It encourages young people to connect IRL

Amidst a world driven by social media metrics, the 'One Good Friend' theory urges a shift in focus. It encourages individuals, regardless of their 'coolness' status, to prioritize meaningful relationships over gathering meaningless followers. By doing so, it redefines success in social dynamics.

For some people, the sense that they'll never be popular may lead to isolation, as if any other type of friendship or friend circle is of less value. Now we know that's simply untrue, and hopefully this information encourages young people to connect with the people who truly see them. 

5. It embraces uniqueness

Authenticity is at the core of the 'One Good Friend' theory. It encourages individuals to be true to themselves instead of conforming to fit societal standards of 'coolness.'


For 'uncool' individuals, this means discovering self-worth beyond societal judgments.

6. It encourages diversity of expression 

Beyond personal well-being, the 'One Good Friend' theory hints at societal change. As individuals recognize the value of genuine connections, there's potential for a shift toward a more inclusive and understanding community.

This theory promotes empathy, urging people to appreciate diverse perspectives in relationships.


The 'One Good Friend' Theory proposes a shift in perspective for individuals who might be considered 'uncool' by societal standards. It suggests that these individuals can find solace, empowerment, and fulfillment by prioritizing the quality of their relationships over conforming to external standards of popularity.

Instead of seeking validation from a large social circle, the theory encourages 'uncool' people to focus on nurturing one meaningful connection that goes beyond superficial judgments.

In essence, it implies that being true to oneself and cultivating genuine relationships can be more rewarding and fulfilling than adhering to conventional notions of coolness.

RELATED: How Parents Can Help Shy Children Make True Friends


Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.