Some research has been published that we were all probably thinking, but hadn’t necessarily proved, regarding having a huge network of online buddies and whether that means you have any more close friends than other people.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are changing the nature of how people connect, by making it easy to collect hundreds of friends and acquaintances online. “Our data suggests weak ties are (more common) but there is no difference in the number of close friends people have,” says Will Reader, an evolutionary psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University. “Nearly all our close friends require face-to-face contact,” Reader told a meeting sponsored by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
In their study, Reader and colleagues asked people a series of questions about their attitudes toward friendships and found 90% of individuals said it was imperative to know somebody face-to-face to form the tightest bonds. The key it seems is face-to-face interaction, where people can interpret social clues such as laughs and smiles that help determine if others are friends to be counted on, Reader claims. “That weird experience of laughing together where people can find they have similar goals and experiences is necessary,” says Reader.
Other studies have shown most people have about 150 people in their extended networks, with just a small number considered a member of the inner circle of close friends, Reader argues. Even when people’s social networks ballooned into many hundreds or more than a thousand people, the number of close friendships did not change.