Why you can’t rely on Facebook friends in times of need

by: Kris CarlonJanuary 25, 2016
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The scientist that previously claimed the human brain is not cognitively able to maintain more than 150 meaningful interpersonal relationships is at it again. This time, Professor Robin Dunbar is demonstrating that the vast majority of your Facebook friends don’t really care about you at all.

Dunbar’s latest research revolves around two studies of UK Facebook users. Survey respondents were asked to specify who among their Facebook friends could be relied upon in times of need and how many express sympathy when something bad is shared on the social platform.

Within an overage friend pool of 150 people, respondents felt they could only rely on less than five people during an emotional crisis and only expect a sympathetic response from less than 15.

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Who do you call on in a crisis?

The figures remained relatively constant even in friend pools that were much larger, reinforcing Dunbar’s previous research that humans are not able to sustain countless stable relationships, even when aided by social media and technology.

There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome.

As Professor Dunbar notes, “there is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome,” adding that, “at least occasional face-to-face interaction” is required to maintain “real” relationships.

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The study certainly seems to confirm that human beings have natural limits placed upon our ability to create larger social networks with meaning, even when we have the tools to do so. Rather than creating ever-larger meaningful networks, we instead spend our time pandering to the passive entertainment needs of fake friends that actually don’t care about us at all. Now, if that’s not sufficient cause to do a “friend cull” I don’t know what is.

Do you agree with these findings? How many “real” friends would you count in your friend list?

  • Anonymus 123

    Dont have a facebook

  • John Doe

    FB users are … ____________! (fill in the blank..)

    • ops

      … better than Google+ users?

      • John Doe

        Nice .. lol

  • Avieshek Rajkhowa

    Fri-ends.. with benefits

  • JV Detmer

    Funny, I used to have a lot of Facebook “friends”, and then I realise the meaning of that, deleted my account and made another, but this time I put myself a 100 friends limit, so I would add people that I actually know and care about.

  • rngwrm

    it’s all i can do to keep enough friends in there so i still get to keep the news ticker on the left-hand side of the window.

  • I don’t use Facebook and do not have a need for Facebook for this exact reason. I do not need nor do I want to be bothered with a bunch of fake friends. The whole concept is ridiculous to me. I do maintain a Google+ account but not for social networking (as it applies to Facebook). Google+ and its communities are a great tool for beta testing and just keeping up with certain things that highly interest you. Otherwise, no social networking for me.