You can only rely on four of your Facebook friends, study finds

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How many Facebook friends do you have? 50? 100? 1000?

If you’re one of those people who spends too much time on Facebook and has amassed hundreds of ‘friends’ , you are probably lying to yourself about the quality of online relationships.

At least, that is according to a new study into the quality of relationships built on social media.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that whilst people think that the likes of Facebook and other social media sites are an easy and effective way of keeping in touch with people, face to face contact is the only way to maintain a friendship.

“Friendships, in particular, have a natural decay rate in the absence of contact, and social media may well function to slow down the rate of decay. However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction”, said Professor Richard Dunbar who helped carry out the research

As part of the study, Professor Dunbar surveyed more than 3,000 people aged between 18 and 65 and found that only around 3 percent of Facebook ‘friends’ could really be counted on in a crisis.

He also found that on average, Facebook users typically have around 150 friends.

However, when respondents were asked how many of their Facebook ‘friends’ they considered to be ‘genuine’ friends, they considered just 20 percent to be genuine or close friends.

When asked how many of those friends could be counted on in times of a crisis, respondents said that, on average, they could could only rely on 4 of their Facebook friends.

The results suggest that whilst people with hundreds, sometimes thousands of Facebook friends may consider themselves to be popular, they are in fact kidding themselves if they believe they are genuine friendships.

It would seem that adding hundreds of friends on Facebook only succeed in clogging up your newsfeed with photos of food, new born babies or selfies, rather than creating any meaningful friendships.

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