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You Don’t Have As Many Friends As You Think, Study Says

You don't have as many friends as you think, study says

You don’t have as many friends as you think, study says. Even though you boast thousands of buddies on Facebook, there are probably a handful that will come running to your aid if you call them in the middle of the night.

Anthropologist and author of the study, Robin Dunbar, the guy who came up with the Dunbar number, shows that on average, an individual can maintain about 150 stable relationships in his, or hers, lifetime.

Those are meaningful relationships that have an impact on your life, and vice-versa.

Dunbar analyzed 3,375 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65, based on an UK study. The study notes that, usually, an individual has about 150 friends, but those individuals said that they didn’t expect any sort of help, during an emotional crisis, from more than 4.1 of them, and that only 13.6 express kindness in any way.

These numbers resemble previous off-the-web studies performed by Dunbar. The anthropologist claims that the size of these two inner friendship circles do not differ from what he has witnessed in the offline medium. Having more than 150 friends doesn’t change a thing.

Dunbar says that, people that have a large amount of social media friends, do not have the same numbers in the real-world. In the offline medium, their social networks is not bigger than your casual Facebook user, even though they appear to be super-popular and well-known on the internet.

Considering that on Facebook you most likely have a few dozen people that you’ve friended just because they have the same tastes in music, movies, or memes, it’s no shocking news. Social networks usually encourage this promiscuous act of following, or friending, people who have similar preferences.

Dunbar claims that if you’re young, you’re most likely to have a large online social following, but as you get older, you don’t have as many. More so, older people tend to have more real-life friends.

Dunbar’s results just reinforce the obvious – we are living in a on-the-go era, and each one of us has a limited amount of time set for social interaction. The emotional capacity, whether it is performed on the online or offline medium, is limited as well. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, to name just a few, offer a portal for folks who are just too busy to meet with people face-to face, and it’s the perfect aid to maintain a friendship on life-support.

Yet, Dunbar says, regardless of how much time you spend on social media talking with an old friend, face-to-face interaction is required if you don’t want the friendship to naturally die out.

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About John W Arthur

John is the head of our IT Security team and he writes about Security, IT news on The Next Digit. He was the Employee of the Year 2013 for his selfless support and efficiently setting up the whole security infrastructure. He also occasionally writes on "IT Sec Pro" Print Media of Sweden. All posts by John

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