I’m going to tell you a truth you’re not going to like. You do not have 300 friends. You don’t even have 200 friends.
“Yes I do!” you shout vehemently, probably thudding the desk so hard your coffee mug rattled. But it’s true.
Do you know how I know?
Because it’s almost impossible.
It’s not a new concept, British evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar first proposed this idea in the 1990’s. It’s all to do with our brains capability of maintaining close meaningful relationships with people.
Facebook also did some research to confirm the same applies online.
An article on the ABC Australia website says:
We have on average five intimate friends, 15 best friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, 500 acquaintances and 1,500 people we recognise on sight.
I did a mini experiment four months before I read the article online which prompted this post.
I was never a huge Facebook user, but I found I was using it to tell people about Jimmey and Chellys progress, and particularly to ask questions and advice when Chelly had a recent operation. Facebook was also useful after my Dad died during the first term of my post-graduate course.
Not many people in my immediate circle of acquaintances on the course understood, and it was only a handful of friends outside my course who asked me how I was and really took the time to help me during that time.
So, getting back to the experiment. When I had a four week fast from Facebook, nobody who I was “friends” with on it got in touch to ask how I was. Admittedly I didn’t contact them either, but as I’m more often than not the friend who gets in touch with people first, I wanted to see how real they were.
Being a friend isn’t about grand gestures. It can involve something as mundane as ringing someone up to ask how they are!
“Blimey, how old-fashioned are you!” I hear you shriek.
Try it, it’s actually fun!
So, when I read about “Dunbar’s number” and Facebooks research I wasn’t surprised.
So how many real close friends do you have?
I can count on one hand how many close friends I could call on during a crisis, and I know they would be able to call on me.
I have lots of people who I care about and take an interest in how they are, but not to the extent I’d be prepared to maintain a friendship online.
I recently had a bit of drama (details coming up in future posts) and it really brought home to me how many people I could ask for help.
So, what happened after the Facebook fast?
I haven’t been on Facebook for over a month, and I feel utterly liberated and free!
I miss a few people from there, maybe we’ll rekindle the friendships again offline, I’ve no idea.
But I know that the friendships I have in the real world are genuine, meaningful and the sort I’ll cultivate and maintain for a long time.
Plus, they never text me to say what they’ve had for dinner or send me endless baby pics/selfies/updates on their childrens progress/questions about what to have for lunch!
What do you think? Do you feel you have a genuine relationship with your online friends, or do you think the recent research is right?
You can follow my adventures with Chelly and Jimmey the guide dogs on twitter at: