How Many of Your Facebook Friendships Really Matter?
Even though, you just celebrated Friendship Day last week, how many Facebook friends would you call during a crisis? Who would you turn to in a moment of urgent need?
A new study in the Royal Society Open Science Journal examined the quality of our Facebook friendships and whether we prefer a big group of close friends.
Researchers found that despite participants having an average of about 150 Facebook friends, they would only turn to four for an "emotional crisis" and rely on just 14 for "sympathy."
Rutgers Sociology professor Deborah Carr said this reflects most people's tendency to have small groups of close friends and confidants both online and in real-life.
"People only really have a handful of friends that they can turn to for real, meaningful support," Carr said. "Most research shows if you have one or two people, who you consider to be a confidant, sometimes that's enough."
Carr believes that is because true, meaningful friendships require a large investment of time, energy, and commitment.
"Friendship is more than just clicking on someone's articles through the "Like" sign, and really investing," Carr explained.
Loneliness often comes from having the wrong kinds of friends, not too few, Carr said.
"How many would give them a ride to work if their car broke down," Carr asked, "Who would buy them soup or orange juice if they were home sick."
She believes young people, especially, need to look further than just the size of their online network and, instead, focus on the quality of the relationships.
"They need to look beyond that surface popularity, and really ask, which of these 800 or 1,000 people really would come to your side as needed," she said.
Carr thinks Facebook is great fun, but said those social ties can't really replace the meaningful ties we have through those people we talk with, who we help, who we visit.
"Who would help you in a jam," Carr asked. "And that helps you to figure out who your real friends are, rather than just who your public Facebook friends are."