Do you pride yourself for having a large number of Facebook friends? Do your carefully crafted status updates receive a lot of attention? Does the massive amount of digital friends make you feel popular and loved?
If the answer to all these questions is in the affirmative, then you are in for some very depressing news.
Most of your Facebook friends, even those who leave heart-eyes emojis on all your pictures and share your philosophical posts, don’t really care about you. They probably wouldn’t even sympathize with your problems if you ever find yourself in a social or emotional crisis, according to a new study.
Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, wanted to find out the connection between having a large amount of friends on social media and having more friends in real life. Basically, he undertook the study to determine if more likes on your Facebook status equaled more humans liking you in the real world – and what he found was shocking, to say the least.
The results showed very little correlation between having friends on social networks and actually being able to depend on them. In fact, the average person studied had around 150 Facebook friends, but when asked how many of these people would actually help during a crisis, the respondents said the number was four, on average. Moreover, only about 14 Facebook friends expressed sympathy if anything went wrong.
“Those numbers are mostly similar to how friendships work in real life,” the research said. “But the huge number of supposed friends on a friend list means that people can be tricked into thinking that they might have more close friends.”
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To come to this conclusion, Dunbar looked at two studies conducted among representatives ranging from 18 to 65 years old. The total sample was 3,375.
“There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome,” Dunbar explained. “In practical terms, it may reflect the fact that real (as opposed to casual) relationships require at least occasional face-to-face interaction to maintain them.”
The researcher also discovered that Facebook interaction does not beat face-to-face meetings. Also, if someone has a lot of Facebook friends with whom they share (lie about) the wonderful adventures of their everyday life, it probably just means they are swimming in a pool of fake friends and need to do a cleanup ASAP.
“Respondents who had unusually large networks did not increase the numbers of close friendships they had,” the study pointed out. “But rather added more loosely defined acquaintances into their friendship circle.”
Long story short, real friendships only develop from being together in person, according to the research study. Although social media has made it far easier for us to make new pals, its most important function is to let us stay in touch with our real-life squad.
“Friendships, in particular, have a natural decay rate in the absence of contact, and social media may well function to slow down the rate of decay,” Dunbar concluded. “However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction.”
Well, it is about time you stop tagging your friends on Facebook and actually spend some quality time with them outside the virtual world.
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