How many of your Facebook friends would you say are truly friends with you? A new Oxford University study has found that friends lists on social-media sites such as Facebook can be highly misleading. The study states that most users' friends are more likely to be unsympathetic and unreliable in real-life situations.
Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University in the UK, undertook the study in order to determine the correlation between people's relationships with Facebook friends and real friends. According to Dunbar, people tend to have about four intimate friends at the most. He classified that people could have 15 best friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, 500 acquaintances and 1,500 people that can be recognised on the social-media platform Facebook.
The study analysed the different boundaries set in virtual relationships that overlap real-life friendships in order to determine how many of users' social-media friends can truly be relied upon in reality. The study also outlined a limit of 150 friends, which he called the 'Dunbar Number', which claims that it is impossible for people to have more than 150 friends.
The results of the study, which had a total of 3,375 male and female participants between the ages of 18 to 65, revealed that an average of 27.6% of 'real' friends were reported by the participants when asked to reveal how many 'genuine' friends they had. However, when asked how many friends would be available to provide support in a crisis, participants' numbers dropped drastically to four.
Professor Dunbar said, "Respondents who had unusually large networks did not increase the numbers of close friendships they had but, rather, added more loosely defined acquaintances into their friendship circle simply because most social-media sites do not allow one to differentiate between these layers."
The study suggests that in order to maintain valuable relationships, face-to-face interaction seems to be vital. Dunbar says that despite technological advancements in digital communication, there lies "a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks" that cannot be overcome by online communication. In other words, go old school and maintain relationships with face-to-face communication if you want your friends to stick by you through thick and thin.