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You Have 4 Facebook Friends Worth Caring About, Study Finds

tomdheere.com
How many Facebook friends do you have? 150? 500? 2000? It doesn't matter, overly, according to a recent study. In truth, you've got 4. Sorry if that came as a shock, but I'm afraid it's true, the numbers told me. The numbers do not lie. A study spearheaded by Robert Dunbar, professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford, has revealed little to no symmetry between social media rosters and actual levels of contact and dependency.

For some, this won't come as any surprise. 4 might not be the universal figure, but it will likely be somewhere in that ballpark for almost everyone. Off the top of my head, including family, I'd say I have about 9 people that I'm properly, properly close to and could turn to about almost anything. Beneath that, there's a tier of good, but less close friends, then more casual friends, then acquaintances, and finally, everybody else I'm friends with on Facebook. I don't even like some of them. I can't stand a select few. That's where the unfollow button comes in handy.

The measure they used for this study was how many people would express genuine concern online if something went wrong in your life. There is, of course, a big difference between legitimate sympathy and an empty gesture, and often when tragic news is imparted on Facebook, you're going to get a lot of the latter, people hoping by making a virtually effortless, woefully ineffectual attempt to cheer you up, they will feel a bit better about themselves. I would imagine in most cases that feeling of misplaced self-satisfaction hangs around for far longer than any fleeting comfort brought on by the comment itself, or even the accumulation of 9 or 10 of them.

On the surface, most people are smart enough to know that their Facebook friends list is no reflection of their actual social life, but that being said, as with any social network, the build up of friends, likes and comments has a subconscious effect, one of instant gratification. Building up a high score, be it a like count, a follow account or a comment count, regardless of context, still registers itself with a little dopamine hit.

The other, bigger factor is that Facebook creates the illusion of regular contact when in truth, there isn't any. Scrolling through you news feed a few times a day will give you updates on the lives of those on your list, but you didn't take any active roll in gaining that information apart from scrolling down. As such, the notion that you're more connected to people simply be being on Facebook is largely bogus, since you have no way of knowing how many people are keeping tabs on you, or how closely and even if you did, that knowledge would probably be more upsetting than comforting.

The people who actually make an active effort to stay in touch with you, and vice versa, are the ones worth caring about, the fact that they're on your Facebook is purely incidental, the incident in question being this - Facebook exists.




Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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You Have 4 Facebook Friends Worth Caring About, Study Finds Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 Rating: 5

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