We no longer have best friends. Instead, we have five of them. Or six. Or hey, maybe even an entire squad.
No one knows this better than Taylor Swift. In the past year, Swift has been noted for "girlfriend collecting," or amassing a large squad of pals with whom she bakes, parties, dances and, yes, makes music videos. But if you were to ask who Swift's best friend is, you'd be hard pressed for a definitive answer — maybe Karlie Kloss, the Haim sisters, possibly Lorde or hometown BFF Abigail Anderson. Swift's web of friends, catalogued with dedication on Instagram, is so vast and so diverse, it's spawned Web guides and think pieces.
Welcome to the Taylor Swift theory of friendship, where best friendship is no longer monogamous, it's an umbrella term of intimacy. Swift changes the language of BFFs from a duality to a league. Or, as Mindy Kaling aptly put it in an episode of The Mindy Project, "Best friend isn't a person ... it's a tier."
And for many modern 20-something BFFs, that theory of friendship is the healthiest and most rewarding of all.
A friend for every phase: If the best friend necklace of our childhoods used to be two halves of a heart, adulthood finds it split into dozens of pieces — one each for the best friend from college, the childhood best friend, the best friend from camp, the best friend from work and the best friend you met at a concert.
Our lives seem to get busier every day, the benchmarks of "adulthood" are delayed and our connections are more likely to fragment at every turn (flaking, anyone?) As life gets more complicated, our needs from those friends become just as complex, prompting a shift to what writer Rachel Schatz calls the "polygamist best friend lifestyle."
"Each friendship has a different dynamic, a different way of working for each person, all of which allow different sides of each person to shine through," Schatz wrote for the Odyssey.
"It has definitely changed from 'This is my best friend! We have the matched split heart necklaces!' to 'Tori is my best friend, and Rich, and Ryan,'" Allie*, 26, said. "All reflect a different part of my personality. One is the yin to my yang, one reflects my more silly and absurd side, one reflects my more intelligent and thoughtful side."
"At this point, there are fully 10 people I'd consider my best friends, for a variety of reasons," Georgia*, 26, said. "I have friends who I call when I'm crying and friends who can always make me laugh; friends who get me logically and friends who get me emotionally; friends for dancing, cooking, reading, biking, adventuring, napping, going back to our roots."
A constant league of support: Having that vast network of besties not only speaks to our busy needs and textured personalities — it's also extremely beneficial to our sense of selves, psychologists have found.
"With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves," James Coan, a University of Virginia psychology professor, told UVA Today. Coan's research showed that when our friends are threatened, our brains register it as a threat to ourselves because our best friends are part of our self-concept.
As we grow up and become multifaceted adults — our professional self, our party self, our family self — it only follows that we'd collect more best friends to fulfill that expanding sense of self-concept. Strong friendships may even improve our immune functioning and increase our life spans. So the more, the merrier.
"Having a community of best friends is amazing. It means I have a net," Georgia said. "It means that each relationship gets to shine on its own merits because I don't expect one person to be all things to me. Having a wealth of different personalities, strengths, perspectives among the inner circle of best friends helps me to see the world better and more clearly and stops me from retreating too deeply into myself."
We're all "the luckiest": That may be the trick to Swift's league of friends: It's not about one BFF not fulfilling all our needs, it's realizing the beauty of having multiple best friends that can teach us different things and make us better people. If Swift recognizes Hailee Steinfeld, Selena Gomez, Lily Aldridge, Tavi Gevinson and others as all part of her essential sense of self, she'll only have more powerful friendships.
As Gigi Hadid, a bestie of Swift's, captioned her recent Instagram celebration of National Best Friends Day: "There's not a picture that could fit in everyone that I appreciate, but this post is dedicated to all the friends that light up my life — you know who you are. I'm the luckiiesssttttt #nationalbestfriendsday."