Why Do We Have So Many Online Friends?

May 15, 2014

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In 2006, I had two best friends. We did everything together and knew each other’s deepest secrets. I also had about 300 Facebook friends, whom I rarely ever connected with — online or offline. Today, I have the same two best friends and 1,400 Facebook friends. Same story.

Are Facebook friends true friends, acquaintances, or people I really don’t know?

Oxford University conducted a study on this anomaly. Researchers found that people have a “social signature.” This means that throughout a person’s life, you maintain the same number of friends in your inner circle.

Felix Reed-Tsochas of Oxford shared his findings, “Although social communication is easier than ever, it seems that our capacity for maintaining emotionally close relationships is finite.”

A person may change jobs, change schools, or move locations. Inevitably, they are going to meet new people, make new friends and replace the old ones. As inconsiderate as this may seem, upholding and sustaining a real relationship takes attention, frequent communication, and visual and physical contact, which all require time and energy.

So if our social signatures stay the same and we regulate our friendships, why do we continue to add more and more “friends” on Facebook? Author, John Cacioppo explains that humans crave meaningful connections. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the connections are physical or online, humans naturally have a desire to affiliate with other human beings.

Having more Facebook friends than “real” friends is not a bad thing. They both fulfill different roles and needs in our lives. However, when adding “friends” or acquaintances on Facebook, use caution and filtering- you never know who you are letting into your cyber life.

Teens deeply crave and seek after connections. Many times, teens will add Facebook ‘friends’ they don’t really know and friends-of-friends without questioning or checking. This could lead to harmful activity such as stalking by sexual predators. Protect your children from these dangers.

Blocking sites isn’t necessary, but practicing internet safety is. Parents can monitor and regulate their child’s social media friends through Facebook monitoring software. Net Nanny Social is software that enables parents to monitor a teen’s friends, pictures, and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LInkedIn.

Source: http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2014/01/11/despite-social-media-most-people-have-only-a-handful-of-close-friends-study