Can you call your Facebook contacts ‘friends?’ Not if a new study is to be believed.
A study conducted in the UK has found of the 150 friends a person has on Facebook, only 15 can be counted as real friends, while only five can be considered close friends.
Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, argues, “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.”
Dunbar explains that while Facebook may not create real relationships, it helps delay the natural rate of decay of a friendship that is caused by a lack of face-to-face interaction. “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 wrote.
“However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction,” he added.
Tanja Hollander, a photographer, tested this theory. She tracked down and photographed all 600 of her Facebook friends. Surprisingly enough, 95% of them welcomed her into their homes and about 75% of her Facebook contacts even offered her a meal and a place to stay for the night.
Hollander explains that her project was an “exploration of friendships, the effects of social networks, the intimate places we call home and the communities in which we live.”
“I continue to be surprised by the number of people, especially (in real life) total strangers, who have opened their homes to me—offering me a place to stay, sharing their lives, their stories and their families while allowing me to document it all.”