We’ve all got that one friend who always has more Twitter followers or Facebook friends than you, and always seem to get a zillion likes a day.
This can be annoying and always makes me feel socially inadequate. However, the latest studies show these amazing social butterflies probably don’t have more “real” friends than you do.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have determined how many Facebook friends you should have, and sadly most of us have to many.
According to Professor Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford, the mental capacity of human beings allows them to maintain social relationships with about 150 people.
He and a team of researchers surveyed over 3,300 people in a study questioning whether or not the Internet made it possible for humans to have functional relationships with more than 150 people.
They found the average male Facebook user had 145 friends compared to 166 for the average female user. This puts the average amount of friends for all users at 155, close to the same number of real friends Dunbar believes one can maintain.
He reportedly said,
This suggests that the constraints that limit the number of friends we can have in the everyday offline world also limit the number we have online. I suggest that this is because friendships ultimately require occasional face-to-face interaction if they are to be maintained over time.
Survey participants considered just 28% of their Facebook friends to be true friends and also claimed they would turn to only four in an emergency.
Those participants with significantly more than 155 Facebook friends confessed they too have only a small amount of truly close and dependable friends.
The findings imply real friendships cannot be maintained exclusively online.
Dunbar reportedly explained,
Social media certainly help to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face. But no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time. There is something paramount about face-to-face interactions that is crucial for maintaining friendships.
This study was originally published in Royal Society Open Science.