It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“A study conducted in 2009 for The Economist found that people with 500 Facebook friends had actual interaction—such as leaving comments on people’s walls or ‘liking’ their links or photos—with an average of just 17 friends for men, 26 for women. And one-on-one communication, such as individual messages or Facebook chats, was even more limited: men had two-way contact with an average of just 10 of those 500 friends, women with just 16.” (“How Many Facebook Friends Do You Need?” Newsweek, 10/15)
I have a lot of Facebook friends. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have a lot of friends. A number of my Facebook friends are people I haven’t even met–fans of MWF Seeking BFF or this blog–and plenty of them are people from elementary school or summer camp who I haven’t seen in over 15 years. Or they are old high school classmates I never speak to, or friends of friends I met once. The point is, as you all know, just because someone is a Facebook friend doesn’t mean they’re a friend.
When it comes to these non-friend Facebook friends, we are so not friends that I would never even think about commenting on their Facebook status or photos. It would feel weird, as if I was chiming in somewhere I didn’t belong. Which is totally weird, of course, since we are in fact connected, at least on the social network, which is why I am allowed to see said status or photo in the first place. It’s as if we’ve made an unspoken mutual agreement to look at each others pictures sometimes and get all voyeuristic, but not to actually communicate. Facebook friends, not friends.
I’ve always figured this was true of most people, and this research really drives it home. Of 500 friends, we’ll only interact online with 26 of them? And only 16 directly? That’s fairly remarkable.
Does this research apply to you? Clearly it does to me. Will you like any of your friends’ Facebook statuses or photos? Or, like me, do you comment only on the ones you feel somewhat connected to? Does it surprise you that while we can claim 1500 friends, we can still only maintain actual relationships with a small portion?