A new study has determined that all of the people you’re friends with on Facebook probably don’t actually give a toss about you. I know, I know, that probably does seem obvious – especially when most of your friends list is made up of people you met once at a house party – but at least we’ve got an empirical study to back it up now.
It was conducted by a guy called Robin Dunbar, who is a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University so you know that it’s kind of a big deal. His research determined that there was very little correlation between being friends with someone on a social network and actually being able to depend upon them in real life. He also found that a lot of the time you didn’t even see a lot of your Facebook friends in real life.
The average person he investigated had 150 Facebook friends, but only 14 of these would express sympathy if anything went wrong. Only four of them could actually be replied upon and only 27% of them are what someone would classify as a ‘genuine friend’.
Apparently this is similar to people in real life, but if you’ve got a bunch of people on your friends list then you could be fooled into thinking that you’ve actually got a load of really good friends. I don’t really know how you would be able to confuse those two concepts, but I guess people without any social skills/brains might fall into that bracket.
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Dunbar had this to say:
There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome.
In practical terms, it may reflect the fact that real (as opposed to casual) relationships require at least occasional face-to-face interaction to maintain them.
So yeah, basically if you want to have real friends then get off your computer and go out into the real world and try and maintain a relationship face to face. I would like to think that most of us reading this already knew that, but you never know.
If you need any more convincing, then read this article about the most annoying Facebook statuses.