Science Tells You To Limit The Number Of Friends You Have On Social Media

Ahmed Bilal
Posted Jan 28, 2016
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We all have that one friend – it may even be you – who has more friends on Facebook and more followers on Instagram and Twitter. This can cause a lot of people to become jealous just by the number of likes on a picture or status/tweet by the “popular” person. And although this should be common knowledge there was still a study carried out by a psychologist that stated that people who have more ‘online friends’ don’t necessarily have more ‘real friends’ than the average person.

Keep in touch with your real friends more than you do with your virtual ones

The study carried out by anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, at the University of Oxford tested something he called an ’urban myth’ about having more virtual friends than real ones. The research ended up concluding that on average a person has around 150 friends on social networks which in real life may even be less.

“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,” he says. “I suggest that this is because friendships ultimately require occasional face-to-face interaction if they are to be maintained over time.”

Royal Society Open Science in which the study was published took about 3000 adults and explicitly explained about the inbuilt restraint in our brains regarding the social networking which online media communication cannot really overcome easily.

“Given the extensive use of social media, the question as to whether Internet-based social networking sites have a positive or negative impact on social relationships has been much debated,” Dunbar writes.

“Cyberpessimists have argued that the Internet has detrimental effects on our social life. In contrast, cyberoptimists have insisted that the effects have been beneficial in many different ways.”

“However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction,” Dunbar says.

According to the study, Dunbar also found out that teenagers are mostly likely to use Facebook as managing social arrangements only and are more likely to diverge towards other social media networks such as Snap Chat or WeChat, etc.

“It is not yet entirely clear what has driven this, but the fact that Facebook is too open to view by others seems to have been especially important,” he says.

“Teenagers have much smaller offline social networks than adults, and forcing them to enlarge their network with large numbers of anonymous ‘friends-of-friends’ may place significant strain on their ability to manage their networks.

“Thus, this trend towards more private social media may actually confirm the claim being made here – that open-ended social media do not in fact allow us to increase the sizes of our social circles.”

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So stick to your real friends because they might come in handy every once in a while, and just limit yourself from the virtual world as far as befriending people goes.

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