Friendships require a certain amount of time investment, but lockdowns caused people to drift away from each other. Image Credit: Unsplash/Noorulabdeen Ahmad

When was the last time you sat down and had a good laugh with your friends?

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we are on the hunt for people who ‘click’ with us.

A UK-based study commissioned by the brand Fisherman’s Friend, surveyed more than 2,000 people last year, and found that a whopping two-thirds of people are trying to grow their inner circle, and actively seeking new friends. That’s one out of three adults, and an unusually large percentage.

If you’re thinking the COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with it, you may be partially right. Friendships require a certain amount of time investment, but lockdowns caused people to drift away from each other. The study researchers also found that while virtual meet-ups allowed families to remain close, it didn’t work as well for friends – for some reason, face-to-face interactions were the only way for friendships to survive.

But studies have pointed to a decline in face-to-face interactions long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and even after the worst of it, we don’t seem to want to get back to socialising like we did before. According to a report in UK-based news website The Guardian, in 2014, people spent six and a half hours a week with close friends, but by 2021, this figure had crashed to just two hours and 45 minutes.

Researchers think the reason for this decline is something called ‘learned loneliness’ – a phenomenon where people adjust to isolation. It’s not that people don’t want to socialise anymore, rather it’s an unfulfilled need that they’ve learned to live with. According to a 2022 study by the US-based Pew Research Centre, 35 per cent of people surveyed said socialising and going out had decreased in priority for them after the pandemic.

So, here we are – we stopped meeting up with our friends, and now, we don’t seem to have any left. What should we do?

Science has an answer to that, too, but it will take some work. It’s called the 11-3-6 rule. According to a February 2023 report in US-based news website Medium, it takes about 11 different encounters that are each three hours long, over a period of six months, to turn an acquaintance into a real friend.

Would you be willing to dedicate that kind of time to form new bonds? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at