Your Facebook Friends Aren’t Really Your Friends
Social media is a blessing and a curse for most of us. As more of us turn to social networks to connect, such as Facebook, we’re digesting more content, updates, videos, and pictures than ever before in human history. The way we’re social online is no longer comparable to how we’re social offline as psychological and sociological studies are able to now gather.
Let’s look at why most of your Facebook friends aren’t that and why this matters in today’s Internet age.
What Does the Science Say About Facebook Friendships?
An Oxford University professor, Robin Dunbar, released his take on two UK studies from April 2015 and another in May 2015. Dunbar maintains that based on these studies even networking with all the tools at our disposal doesn’t mean we can take on a larger network of friends than we can in real life and maintain true friendships.
In the two studies that took place in April 2015, Dunbar looked at social data from a sample of 3,375 people ranging from ages 18 to 65. This alone is unlike other social studies out there that tend to focus on younger demographics. In these two studies, the average Facebook user had 150 friends. When asked how many of those 150 friends they could emotionally count on, the average answer was 27.6 percent or about 4.1 people.
During the study, those participants that had more than the average 150 Facebook friends in their network didn’t see much of an increase in the amount of genuine friends they felt were within that network.
According to Dunbar, the crux of the study showcases the important of time invested in a relationship and the quality of that time when it comes to the emotional connectedness humans crave as a species.
If you want more meaningful friendships in real life and on Facebook, you have to take the time to continue to get to know and be invested in the lives around you. You can’t just like a post, comment, or share. You have to engage with your friends on social networks and not just here or there because the Internet gives you a way out of the face-to-face interaction.
This quote is particularly telling from Dunbar, showcasing how Facebook changes the natural decay of friendships and relationships online:
“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.”
What Does This Mean for the Future of Friendship?
If one in four of your Facebook friends isn’t a friend in the traditional sense of the word, why do we continue to use Facebook to connect with people we wouldn’t connect with in the offline world? Why do we scroll through Facebook feeds, like what we like, comment here and there, but continue to act as if the majority of our Facebook friends are just that – friends?
The world is changing and social networking isn’t going away anytime soon. We’re putting more value in connecting online rather than offline because it’s more convenient and easy for us in our busy lives. What happened to connecting with friends over a drink, at dinner, or just as we go about our days? When do we take back friendship from what the world wide web has evolved it into or do we continue pretending every Facebook connection is a genuine relationship as studies like this begin to prove otherwise?