How many Facebook friends do you have? 50? 100? 200? 500?! Think about that magic number in your head. Feeling pretty good about yourself, aren't you? You must be feeling popular and loved by your massive amount of digital friends, huh?
Well, stop. A new study is here to prove that Facebook is actually kind of depressing when it comes to real friendship.
Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, wanted to find out if there was any correlation between having a large amount of friends on social media and having more friends in real life. Basically he was asking if more Instagram likes equal more humans liking you in the real world.
What did he find out? That all those Facebook friends and Twitter followers are basically ghosts, and a very, very small percentage of those people are your true, honest-to-goodness, pick-you-up-from-the-airport-at-2am friends.
Dunbar also discovered that having more Facebook friends did not equal having more flesh and blood pals. So if you're jealous of someone's 300+ Facebook buddies, that doesn't mean they are swimming in a pool of friends. It probably just means they need to purge their list of Facebook contacts.
In the sample group, Dunbar found that the average number of Facebook friends was 150. When asked how many of those friends would be called "genuine" by the user, the average answer was 27 percent.
But when asked how many Facebook friends would be around for an emotional crisis, the number was much lower: four. Just four people out of 150. However, around 14 on average would "express sympathy" during the crisis.
Translation: Very few people would do more than just "like" your status about suddenly losing your job. Wah wahhh….
"There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome," he wrote. "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."
So essentially, real friendship only comes from being together in the same room, although Dunbar also found that people are using social media not to expand their squad, but to maintain the squad they already have.
"The fact that people do not seem to use social media to increase the size of their social circles suggests that social media may function mainly to prevent friendships decaying over time in the absence of opportunities for face-to-face contact."
What did we learn today, kids? Your Facebook popularity is a sham and you should probably just buy lots of cats. Yay!