Family More Important Than Friends? (Friends Are Overrated)


Because of the invention of Facebook you may still be linked as friends with your childhood BFF, but other than that, it’s likely you rarely if ever still see them. I also imagine that’s not the case with your family, at least with some members. Does this lasting effect mean that family is more important than your friends and therefore, friends are overrated?

Yes, family is more important than friends, and friends are overrated. Though outliers exist, religion, history, and research have shown that the impact of family is stronger than the influence of friends. Despite current attempts to elevate friendship status, family ties are what’s lifelong.

Many don’t discover the importance of family until after the death of a grandparent, parent, or other close relative. These same people eventually learn that friends are not the same as your family. My husband and I have always put family first and now that we are grandparents ourselves, it’s critical we continue to do so. I’m happy to share our thoughts on this.

Why Having A Lot of Friends is Bad for You

It surprises young people today if you tell them family is more important than friends. Millennials and Generation Z (those born from 1996 – early to mid 2000s) have grown up inundated by a life’s philosophy that brought them ‘Friendsgiving’ and the motto ‘you do you, and I’ll do me’.

Friendsgiving (Source: Merriam Webster) is a term referring to a friend’s version of Thanksgiving that first popped up around 2007. Rather than visiting with your family which is a longstanding tradition for this November holiday, a push was started to move the family-focused event to the friend-zone. This way it would be more acceptable to skip visiting grandma and instead pass the turkey and cranberry sauce to your BFF.

But there’s a real downside to forgoing your family visits and elevating your friends to family-status. Eventually, you realize friends are a lot of work with little benefit. They also take away from your time with your real family, and as we all know in this hectic fast-paced life, time is limited. As well, you may think that friendships last forever, but no. That’s just not reality.

The problem is that for many this ‘A-Ha’ realization comes a bit too late, and time is something we can’t get back.

“A good friend is like a four-leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.” -Irish Proverb

In this section, we’ll look closely at how friendships end up competing with your family time and just how lifelong friendship aren’t really, lifelong, after all.

Friendships Compete with Your Family Time

Probably one of the first signs of growing up as a child is getting to do sleep overs or play at a friend’s house. And certainly in our country a rite of passage for many teens is getting their license. Teens aren’t overjoyed at obtaining a driver’s license just for the sake of personal identification either. It has more to do with freedom to hang out with friends instead.

Today’s modern society pushes a narrative that having friends is important to child development, to the point of it being a significant part of growing up.

These impulses to leave family for friends is actually detrimental to development, the contrary of what is generally perceived. Friends aren’t prepared to guide you; don’t have experience to back up morality; and ultimately don’t have your best interests at heart. Thus, it’s not in the best interests of families for children and teens to spend too much time with friends.

One particular study from The Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2000) had some very interesting and quite pertinent revelations related to peer and parental social support and influence. Its conclusions showed a strong correlation between parents and children. The more positive parental support, the better a young adult’s emotional well-being; whereas the influence from friends was not impactful on emotional balance. And it also showed the opposite: the more negative a parent’s support the more diminished was the emotional health of young adults in the focus group.

” …parental support remains the best indicator of emotional problems during adolescence.” – Helsen, M., Vollebergh, W. & Meeus, W.

This is ironic as well since the same study also noted that the adolescent period typically is marked by “parental support decreasing and friends’ support increasing.” It seems evident that this should not be the case at all!

And this continues into adulthood. Even as men and women begin to marry and have their own families, today’s culture deems it almost critical for parents to have their ‘own friends’ separate from the family. From celebrity promotion like this one from Beyonce, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations.” to admonishments from psychologists, having adult friendships is credited as a healthy necessity.

This is equally perpetuated for both men and women.

  • From the Mayo Clinic: “Understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture friendships.”
  • From Mental Health First Aid: “It can be hard to talk to family members about mental health. That’s why it’s important to have healthy friendships to turn to in times of need.”
  • From Healthline:  “Having friends and confidantes plays a critical role in our health and well-being, regardless of gender.”
  • From NPR: “According to many researchers, masculinity is what is hurting them [men] and making it hard for them to maintain friendships.”
  • From Healthline: “…girlfriends really do become closer than family.”

So because this ‘friendship value’ is so prevalent in our modern-way of thinking doesn’t that justify its validity? No, not at all. We can just as easily look to the rising mental health crisis plastering our headlines to show that this kind of thinking hasn’t created a truly healthy way of life or led to mentally-healthy people.

As well, there is competing research that shows the relevance of the family on one’s well-being, proving friends are overrated.

  • From National Council on Family Relations: “Marriage is associated with physical health, psychological well-being, and low mortality.”
  • From MentalHealthCenter.Org: “When family relationships are stable and supportive, a person suffering from mental health issues or disorders may be more responsive to treatment.”
  • From Harvard Medical School: “One study found that midlife women who were in highly satisfying marriages and marital-type relationships had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared with those in less satisfying marriages.”
  • From HealthGuidance.Org: “The family is the most important force responsible for shaping our personality.”
  • From WebMD: “Keeping in touch with family can keep you healthy.”

I’ve personally witnessed families suffering from too much friend time. For instance, when I was a new teacher, it was common for a group of my colleagues to stay after school even to the point of ordering pizza to be delivered because it went through dinner time.

Though students had left hours before, these young teachers put off going home to their families in order to ‘work’ and socialize with each other. When invited to join them, I declined. I couldn’t imagine electing to stay even longer away from my toddler and husband. Yet it was evident that my way of thinking wasn’t the norm for my age group.

It’s unfortunate, and also telling, that several of these women experienced divorce during my years of working there.

Another example is men who spend time away from their families during sports seasons. Some men won’t do anything with their families in the Fall when football season is underway; likewise, these same men put off family time during March Madness in Spring when basketball is king.

Instead they hang with the boys, either in their man caves, basements, or local sports bar, missing out on their children growing and time spent with their wife, strengthening their marriage.

Is it any wonder the divorce rate in the US remains at a 45% (Source: CDC) even though the number of marriages in general has steadily declined over the years! (Source: Statista)

Lifelong Friends Aren’t Real

Can you remember your childhood best friend’s name? What about your friends group from high school? Probably not all of them. And the 64,000 question… When was the last heart to heart you had with one of them? This is a simple but common example that demonstrates that lifelong friends aren’t reality and friends are overrated.

A 2014 study of emerging adults of Italian descent was reported in Journal of Adolescence (vol 37). This study sought to determine, if any, connection between family ties and friendship influence on life satisfaction. Results from 454 participants divided into two cohorts showed a strong connection between life satisfaction and family ties, whereas friendships were not strongly impactful.

You might think that you’ll be friends forever, but that’s just not the reality in most cases. Just think about your own life. More than likely, you aren’t friends with your childhood buddies anymore, nor with your clique from high school. This is why high school reunions exist…a way to catch up.

The time and effort spent nurturing friendships from grade school through college proves worthless over the life span of most individuals.

Rather most friendships are connected with our current station in life. If you are in elementary school, you have your friends group from your class. Once you move on from Mrs. B’s class to Ms. O the next year, you also move on from your friends.

The same can be said for college. Many of today’s Gen Z who are in college think those are their life-long pals, but once they graduate, most of them will ‘graduate’ from their relationships too and form new friendships with co-workers.

If friends were so critical and important to our lives we wouldn’t just move on to a new set just because our circumstances change.

Friends Aren’t Family

One reason it’s so easy to move on from friends and find new ones based on our circumstances is simply because they aren’t family. Whether we are in middle school, college, or just married, our family is still our family, and that is more important than friends. In good times and bad, for better or worse, we literally can’t change our mom, dad, siblings, or grandparents.

Obviously some families are not as supportive as others may be. Some family members are closer than other family members. But regardless, they’re blood…they remain family. This cannot be said of friends.

Some people have used this as a positive such as saying, ‘friends are family we pick’, like that’s a good thing. But is it?

No! This means we do a ‘pick and choose, take and leave’ approach. Family is not a buffet. Taking those we have been given as family members teaches us that every life is important, even the ones belonging to those we don’t get along with.

For friends, that’s okay, but the idea here is to imply ‘oh, too bad, we can’t do that with our family’ since ‘family is bad.’ Well, I’m for one saying that’s a good thing! Not being able to change and swap our family willy-nilly is what makes ‘family’ stable, comforting, reliable, and critical.

If you would like to read about how pets are not family, see my article here on why pet owners call themselves parents.

Of course, there are outlier examples of families that are harmful or dangerous-abusive people who have tarnished the sacredness of family. But just because there are outliers, it doesn’t change the significance of family. No, not at all!

Family Values More than Friends

What is meant by family values? The National Council on Family Relations says, “Instilling family values can protect and guide children against making hurtful decisions in the future as they teach a sense of right and wrong.” This is an apt example of why family values more than a friend’s simple acceptance since friends aren’t out to protect you from doing the wrong thing. Often friends are at the heart of you doing the wrong thing!

Family cares about you more than anyone else in the world. No one wants more for you than your spouse, parent, siblings and so on. They are more invested in your wellbeing for your sake and theirs.

Family values by definition are core values to make you (and the family) better. Things such as trustworthiness, caring, generosity, humility, perseverance, work ethic….these are the attributes families promote.

Friendships are more about hobbies, interests, and entertainment…those aren’t necessarily bad things. On the contrary, it’s okay to have fun and necessary even. However, those things are secondary to the first. That’s why family matters more.

Family Is Forever

The past 10 years has seen a surge in user-friendly DNA genetic testing kits for tracing your ancestors and family history.

Family matters more than friendships because family is forever; friends are not (they’re overrated!). I’ve explained earlier how friendships aren’t lifelong, but let’s consider this deeper.

AncestryDNA has over 50,000 verified reviews on Amazon, with a 4.7 out of 5 rating, demonstrating its popularity for home-testing genetic services. I admit even our family has used this and enjoyed tracing our lineage several generations via their online community.

One thing these home-testing DNA genetic kits have shown is just how long-lasting family is. Family is across generations. We can now trace our family line back hundreds of years with just a few strokes of the keys on a computer via the internet.

If you want to dig even deeper, you can spend hours researching and find more information that your mind can possibly handle…stories and stories of people related to you. And it doesn’t stop with you. One day you’ll be gone but your ‘family’ remains and can continue learning about the family tree.

This just can’t be said about friends.

And let’s not forget the Bible, a book that is ranked the best selling book of all time (Source: Rankings). In the Holy Bible, there is such an emphasis on family that entire chapters are devoted to lineage and genealogy, from the accounts of Adam and Noah found in Genesis, to the Davidic line recorded in Chronicles, to the ultimate lists of the lineage of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke.

The Bible is another demonstration of why family is forever!

Friends Vs. Family in TV and Film

It is shameful the role modern media has played into diminishing the family, and our part in accepting it so readily. From TV sitcoms and dramas to the representation of family and friends on the big screen, most aren’t adept at depicting the accurate role of family and friends, though a few get close!

Television Sitcom Friends & Family Dramas

The Friends theme song says “I’ll be there for you…” and that’s just one of the ways this TV sitcom misled it’s under-40 aged viewers about friendship.

TV has many examples of both friend and familial relationships. One of the most wildly popular is aptly named, Friends, and others have alluded to family importance in their titles such as All in the Family; Family Matters; and Sisters.

Let’s look closer at these shows and how they addressed family and friends.

The Many Fallacies of Friends

According to IMDB, Friends began in 1994. It was a show centered on six co-ed friends navigating young adulthood while living in Manhattan. It got its appeal from an attractive cast living in an unrealistically nice apartment who spent an unusual amount of time at a local coffee shop musing humorously about their daily life. The show ran 10 successful seasons earning their actors millions while doing so, and even more millions now in syndication.

The show rarely made mention of family, other than two of the main characters being brother and sister. Instead, it showed the close relationship and reliance of friends.

However, regardless of its long running on television, one of the main reasons for its success is because of the connection and chemistry of two characters who it seems that both writers and viewers overwhelmingly wanted to get married and move to New Jersey! From episode one, everyone knew Ross had a unrequited love for Rachel and when finally she reciprocated, it was clear these two were meant to be.

Though Friends was about the lives of friends, it was also evident that all each of them wanted was to meet their significant other and live happily ever after. I think despite what writers outwardly intended, their writing and direction for their cast eventually pointed to the power and need for family.

All in the Family to Family Matters-Sitcoms that Focused on Family

All in the Family In 1971, writer/director Norman Lear’s TV show about a blue-collar, cantankerous man and his day-to-day life with his family debuted (Source: IMDB). This show featured a father, mother, daughter, and son-in-law, and was often focused on the conflict between the father and son-in-law whose perspectives on current events and family ideals differed widely.

It was quite interesting and revolutionary for his time-tackling big current event issues-and even today, as it was able to project characters with layers, especially the father, ‘Archie.’ He was on the surface bigoted, close-minded, and argumentative, but Lear (as well as Carroll O’Connor, the lead actor) was able to make this character ‘real’; someone you ended up liking despite his faults because he took his role as patriarch seriously and worked hard for his family.

Family Matters is one of the more successful family-focused TV sitcoms, running nine seasons on ABC.

Family Matters According to IMDB, Family Matters ran from 1989-1998. It was a big hit as far as ‘fun family shows’ went. It centered around a black family, the Winslows, headed by policeman father, working mom, and three kids. During the show’s many seasons, grandma and widowed aunt with baby in tow came to live with this big-hearted family.

The show displayed the family unit as generous, enduring, hardworking, and supportive. Even if you don’t like the simple humor especially the slapstick provided by nerdy kid neighbor, Steve Urkel, you have to appreciate the glowing way family was portrayed during the nine seasons it ran.

Parenthood and Sisters– Dramatic Families

The Bravermans, a family portrayed on TV show Parenthood, not only consisted of caring parents, but also illustrated the strong bond between siblings.

Parenthood Parenthood ran from 2010-2015 and six seasons. From grandparents to adult siblings to their children, it was a show about the intricacies and ties of the whole complicated family.

Although it often got off track trying to address social issues off real news headlines, it did a good job showing the emotional connections of a family. Whenever anyone was in trouble, got into a jam, or simply needed a confidence boost, the Braverman clan was there for each other, many times with ice cream and/or wine.

I think this is really what made this family resonate with its audience (despite its frequently preachy tone). People liked to see a family who cared about each other being portrayed on television, in contrast to the family backbiting that was prevalent in soap opera dramas on competing channels, or the lack of family connections in the cop drama de jeur!

Sisters Sisters aired in 1991 (as shown on IMDB) and ran six seasons. It was a show about four sisters and their individual families as well as their strong sisterly bond. Though the show was prone to overdramatization, it worked to demonstrate family values such as caring, love, forgiveness, and support.

Film Friends & Families That Get It Right, and Wrong

Moving on, let’s look at how friends and family relationships have been portrayed on the movie screen in films. Though the sheer volume of film (and tv, too) could take more time than I have to address here, we can certainly find some examples to give us an idea of friends and family roles available.

Back to the Future Mother-Son Dynamic

Huey Lewis and the News’ is credited with singing the theme song for Back to the Future.

Back to the Future was first shown in 1985. I was in middle school still! This show was popular for many reasons: its witty dialogue, interesting time-travel, likeable actors, and who can forget the catchy theme song by Huey Lewis and the News!

However, one part that lingers in the minds of 80s kids who were the first to watch this show at the movie theater is the relationship between the main character, Marty, and his mom, which goes straight to icky! Spoiler Alert: Marty goes back in time and ends up meeting his mom, who flirts mercilessly with him.

Now I imagine that the movie people wanted to show some irony here by adding this section. You see, in the beginning of the movie, Marty’s mom puts down his girlfriend as ‘too forward’ and explains that she’d never call boys or flirt back in her day. Then, of course, Marty sees his mother’s lie all too close and personal when he travels back to 1955.

This film still shines some positive light onto ‘the family’ with Marty working so hard to ensure his mom and dad meet, as well as ‘fix’ things for his nerdy dad who’s ruthlessly bullied in school.

As well, the ending segues into part 2 with an urgent plea by ‘Doc’ for Marty to accompany him to the future to save Marty’s children. Even though the film wanted to focus on Marty and his girlfriend it ends up being quite the family focused film!

The Changing Relationship of Frodo & Sam in The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the most well-respected authors, having written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His stories have been turned into critically acclaimed, and equally popular, films worthy of his books by all accounts. And one of the reasons for Tolkien’s stories’ success is the religious arch-types and the strong friendship of Frodo and Sam.

Frodo is the savior of Middle Earth, the world of the Tolkien stories. He’s the only one good enough to withstand the pull of the evil, powerful ring while carrying it to its destruction, a necessary requirement to stop impending doom of evil beings. Sam is Frodo’s partner-in-arms best friend, never wavering in his devotion to Frodo and the mission.

In The Lord of the Rings, we see friendship at its finest.

There is unconditional love and care for each other, but especially from Sam towards Frodo. Frodo is presented with this horrendous, necessary mission which no one else can do. And Sam’s mission is to go along with Frodo, to help him. After the mission is accomplished, Frodo departs from Sam, going the way of the elves, while Sam returns to his homeland and starts… his family.

And here we see, despite two friends being close as friends ever could be, having faced life and death situations, Frodo and Sam part ways in the end.

Sam returns to his family where he really belongs. With this final scene, the reader/viewer knows Sam and Frodo are where they should be. Tolkien illustrates that though one may step out to help a friend in dire need (and in this case, the entire Middle Earth world, too), this is temporary because one’s rightful, permanent place is with family.

The Family and Friends Lessons from the Greatest Film of All Time (It’s A Wonderful Life)

When George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life realizes he wants to live again, he doesn’t say “I want to see my friends.” He says, “Get me back to my wife and kids!”

If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have an excuse for not owning It’s A Wonderful Life already. If that’s the case, you can get it streamed from Amazon.

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is about a man, George Bailey, who during his entire life has made sacrifices for his family. But during one fateful night, he feels he’s faced with a problem so terrible, so insurmountable, that he’s no good to anyone and thinks of ending his life.

Now suffice it to say, George Bailey does not die. Instead he’s put through an alternate reality in which he’d never been born so that he can see the impact his life had on others. George’s humble character greatly benefited his kind, hardworking parents, his bumbling but sweet uncle, his little brother, and especially his loving wife. Without George, his whole family suffered tremendously. They certainly weren’t better off without George in their life.

Capra not only focused on the family in this story, but also demonstrated how friendship matters, too. In doing so, he showed how one (like George) can help others such as friend Mr. Gower, Mr. Martini, Violet, and many more without overstepping, or mudding the waters between family and friends.

It’s A Wonderful Life is a film full of family values and friendships, but it keeps them in their rightful roles. This film is remarkable because of its story, acting, and theme, but also because of its proper portrayal of what family and friends really mean. This makes it bar none, the best movie of all time.

The Family and Friends Take Away (Are Friends Are Overrated?)

So what is it you should take away from this article? Is family more important than friends? Are friends really overrated?

  • Time and research show that family is what matters in the end.
  • Friends are temporary and connected to our current circumstances.
  • Family influence is more powerful and impactful than friends, according to science.
  • The accessibility of home genetic-testing kits have made it even more clear that family is forever.
  • Media attempts to downplay family and focus more on friends has often backfired.
  • And It’s A Wonderful Life is the greatest film of all time!

This article isn’t to say ‘don’t have friends’ but rather is to encourage you to not take your family for granted. It’s okay to have friends, but family is what truly matters in the end.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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