You Only Have Four Real Friends on Facebook, Study Says
Everyone else on the social media site is just someone you're connected to
Facebook friends are almost never real friends, a new study suggests.
By Rachel DickerJan. 29, 2016, at 12:38 p.m.+ More
Facebook makes users feel both connected and isolated.
There are plenty of well-wishers when your birthday comes around, but how many of those people would you call to hang out with you?
According to a study from Oxford University, "There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome."
In other words: Your brain can't handle too many friends. In fact, the average person has about four real ones, regardless of the number listed on their profile.
To reach this conclusion, R.I.M. Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford and author of the study, examined a sample of 3,375 people in the United Kingdom ages 18 to 65. Some used social media regularly, while others did not.
The participants who used social media were asked how many Facebook friends they could depend on during an emotional or social crisis, and the average response – which barely varied between age groups – was four. The average study participant, however, had 150 Facebook friends.
That's a 2.7 percent rate of true friendship.
Further, "The data show that the size and range of online egocentric social networks, indexed as the number of Facebook friends, is similar to that of offline face-to-face networks," Dunbar writes in the study.
Translation: People who use Facebook have, on average, the same number of friends as those who don't.
So maybe we ought to make more calls and pay more visits to the people we love – there aren't that many, after all.
Rachel Dicker is an Associate Editor, Social Media at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at email@example.com.
BLOGGER'S BLAH. Yes, I have long suspected this. In the past little while, two different Facebook "friends" were fussing and fuming at all these pesky friend requests they kept getting. Didn't they know they were nearing the 5000-friend limit and needed to keep those precious few spaces open so THEY could hand-pick the remaining people ("supporters")?
Several times I've seen the advice to go through those five thousand friends carefully and weed out dead people or those with inactive accounts (i. e., few or no friends, which amounts to the same thing). A "friend" is of no use unless they, in turn, have a lot of friends. I even saw a rant - a real one, not a parody, though it was almost unbelievable - saying that all these dead people were making it difficult for her to keep an accurate count on her total. The nerve of those people! On their deathbed, rattling out their last, they should be legally required to gasp to their nearest and dearest: "Please. . . close. . . Face. . . book. . . acc. . .acc. . . cckkkkkkk. . ." (dies).
So do I have four "real" friends on Facebook? There are people I used to be close friends with - even very close friends, but drift does happen, even if you still care about them. But who would be there in a crisis? The one person who immediately comes to mind is in a health crisis of his own, a major one, to the point that I often wonder if he has died and I just haven't found out about it yet. But he'd be there for me emotionally, I know this beyond question, just as I try to be there for him, simply because we love each other. He has proven his loyalty for the past 25 years, but the rest? I'm not so sure. I think if I were in a really bad way, most of them would just disappear into the woodwork. It has happened before.
So I have a ways to go until I hit that magical 5000 mark. Until then, just keep those friend requests coming.
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