Face-to-face interactions are key to maintaining ‘authentic’ friendships, even in this age of social media and Facebook ‘likes’ can’t replace the good, old bonding that is created while sharing an experience, a new study by the University of Oxford shows.
What’s more, the constraints that limit the number of friends offline also apply in the virtual world, the study — supported by Dorset bakers Thomas J Fudge’s — has found.
“Although social media may seem like the perfect way to make and maintain friendships… face-to-face interaction is essential for truly authentic relationships… shares, selfies and ‘likes’ are no replacement for the bonding that takes place whilst sharing food, experiences and anecdotes,” Sue Fudge, director at Thomas J Fudge’s, says in a news release issued by the University of Oxford.
The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on Wednesday, has harped on the term Social Brain Hypothesis, which explains that our brain’s ability to process multiple relationships creates a natural group size of 100-200 people.
“This size is also constrained by the time required to maintain relationships -- we only have so much time to devote to meeting or talking to people,” the press release says.
As the assumption is that social media enable us indirectly interact with many people with the help of posts, tweets and pictures, psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar conducted two surveys comprising 3,300 respondents to find out whether using the internet lead to making more friends.
The study found that the average number of friends for a regular social media user, in the first survey, was 155. The number was 183 in the second survey. The study also found that women had more friends than men.
“The first survey group, made up of regular social media users, considered only 28% of their Facebook friends to be ‘genuine’ (ie close) friends. When asked specifically how many people they would turn to for support in a crisis and how many they would turn to for sympathy, on average those groups were just 4 and 14 friends respectively, matching the offline findings of the Social Brain Hypothesis,” the release says.
Professor Dunbar explains: “Social media certainly help to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face. But no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”