This may seem like an obvious statement, but a new study revealed a lot about the relationships between Facebook users and their Facebook friends.
The new study by Professor Robin Dunbar from Oxford University, England, showed what we may have all thought for some time: just because you have a friend on Facebook, it doesn’t mean you are really friends.
The study highlighted that only 14 out of the average 150 Facebook friends any user has would actually show sympathy for the user, and only five friends of this 150 could actually be considered “close”.
The study also showed that age was an important part of Facebook use, showing the difference between teenagers and adults. The 18-24-year-old group had approximately 282 friends, more than the average 150 friends. This was largely put down to the ability of young people to make more tenuous friendships on Facebook and maintain them there, rather than in real life.
Dunbar discovered that users with more friends do not necessarily have more close friends.
In fact, those with more friends had a high proportion of loosely defined acquaintances. These are friendships that are only defined by the digital sphere and very rarely, if ever, actually include a physical interaction of any kind.
With the absence of social contact, social media leads to an inevitable social decay. The study there revealed that you still need to have face-to-face contact in order to maintain a friendship, but not a Facebook friendship.
While it’s still true that, generally, people find social interactions more satisfying if they are in person. As a result, if you do not find the time or a reason to meet with your “close” Facebook friends then they cannot be considered friends.
There is no progression in the relationship, and it’s possible for the close friendships that you had before Facebook to slide into loose acquaintances. The social media platforms we use do not distinguish between the complex layers of friendship that we all understand in reality and so it’s more than possible for friendships to be lost if the only communication is via the text messages, phone calls, and social media.
Friendship is about more than being friends on Facebook.
It’s about organizing to meet, establishing connections, seeing each other face-to-face.
Take a look at your current collection of “friends” on Facebook and other social media platforms, and decide who you would consider a close friend and who you wouldn’t. Then work out how many of those people you have actually met up with in the last month – if you fail to reach above the average number then maybe it’s time to reach out and make a significant change.
By Charlotte H.