Facebook ‘Friends’ or ‘imaginary acquaintances’?

Posted: 08/03/2011 in News Stories, Rants, Uncategorized

How many friends do you have?


So recently a bunch of bored scientists proved that it is basically impossible for a human to hold more than 150 friends, and that the bulk of people on facebook who think they have over 3000 of them are kidding themselves. This article at first bothered me a little bit. Mainly because I have nearly 400 friends on facey and was somewhat sure I recognized them all as friends, or at least acquaintances.

So I thought wait, these guys are scientists, Doing tests like this THEY are kidding themselves. Just because they don’t have friends they have to make a study saying no one else can! So I thought I’d have a quick run through my friends on FB to see if I could prove this theory wrong. Then the problem got bigger (Story of my life)… I had to put the finger on the definition of an actual friend worthy of my real life friend-ing-ness. So I came to the point of a close friend of mine being someone I would happily perform a favour for, or ask a favour from, in real life without hesitating.

Then brings me to my fake scenario –

I imagined I had an animal. Like a cat. But I hate cats so we will say just an animal. A worthy friend would be someone I could ask to come over to my house and feed my animal if i’m on holidays or not in town. I would then have to reverse the situation and imagine myself doing it for him/her. So back to my friends list. Which comprises of old school/TAFE mates, people I’ve met through mutual friends, work colleagues and an extended community of fellow gamers.

Now taking into account the virtual friends I’ve met that I probably wouldn’t trust in real life. I still had an original estimation that the people in my list I would ring up to feed my animal would be well over half of the 400 or so. So you could say I was pretty self assured I could prove this wrong. After sifting through the list my end count was –

A measly 84

That’s a bit surprising. But what does it mean? Pretty much means I’m not the only one who will realize online friendships lull us into a false sense of popularity, sure we might have met that person once or twice. Sure were not necessarily enemies. Or maybe we just don’t talk as much as we used to. But I think face book friends are incorrectly labelled as ‘friendships’ when to be honest it’s more of a comparison of being in a crowded pub with a crapload of people your are acquainted with to varying degrees. Face it, most of us are far to busy to visit the people we know on a regular basis and even though I was surprised at the difference in numbers from my online friends and close, real-life friends. I don’t believe that social networking is having a huge effect on our ability to make friends in real life. I think a rename of the word ‘friends’ is in order on Facebook. Something that describes the relationships we have online that, although are friendly, does not translate into automatic kinship.

I can’t think of a good name for it. any suggestions?

  1. Peter Caldwell says:

    facebook buddy’s

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