Do you know how many of your friends on Facebook are true friends that you can really count on?
A new study has found that the overwhelming majority of your friends on Facebook are fake friends. In fact, the report shows that, on average, only 4 – 5 of your friends on Facebook’s social network can be considered close friends in the real-world sense of the word.
Oxford University professor Robin Dunbar studied how friends on Facebook compare to actual friends in real life. He discovered that out of the 150 friends the average person has on Facebook, only 15 can be considered actual friends and only 4 – 5 would be considered close friends.
His study divided friends into six categories: close friends, best friends, good friends, friends, acquaintances and, lastly, people who are recognizable. In the real world, the average person has 4 close friends, 15 best friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, 500 acquaintaces and 1,500 people that they can recognize.
According to Dunbar’s study, there are real-world limitations on the size of a person’s social network that even the large scale of social media can’t make up for. In reality, true relationships need a certain amount of face-to-face communications to function.
Dunbar does not think that sites like Facebook really grow a person’s social network. However, he does think that social media sites can help to prevent existing friendships and relationships from weakening and deteriorating over time.
Dunbar says that real-life friendships deteriorate without regular person-to-person contact. He believes that social networks help to maintain the longevity of real-world relationships by providing a platform for real friends to stay in touch online. However, Dunbar doesn’t think that social media is enough to save a friendship that lacks person-to-person contact for long periods of time.
Dunbar found that people usually place less value on electronic communications like phone calls, text messages and social media than they do on face-to-face communications.
Dunbar’s research also discovered that younger people tend to be less selective and more socially promiscuous than adults when approving someone as a friend on Facebook. People in the 18 – 24-year-old age range had an average of 282 Facebook friends; whereas the average for Facebook users overall was only 150.
Furthermore, the study found that even people who had an unusually large number of Facebook friends still did not have any measurable increase in the number of real friendships. People with a large “social network” on Facebook just tended approve friend requests more easily than other people.
According to the study there is a limit to the total number of friends that any one person can have. Dunbar limits the total number of friends that people can actually have to 150.