Ever since social media websites flourished 2004 onwards, they have been used to help people stay connected with friends and family . The average user on these sites may have hundreds or even thousands of friends, but only a small number of those friends can be counted on during tough times, according to a study by a British psychology professor, Robin Dunbar. Robin is also known for coming up with Dunbar’s Number, a calculation model, which theorises that people can maintain only about 150 stable relationships.
Robin studied the results from 3,375 users between the ages of 18 and 65. These users had an average of about 150 friends, of which 4.1 were dependable and 13.6 expressed sympathy during an emotional crisis.
“In this study, the sizes of the two inner friendship circles did not differ from those previously identified in offline samples,“ said Robin in his research. He added, “Respondents who had unusually large networks did not increase the numbers of close friendships they had, but rather added more loosely defined acquaintances into their friendship circle.“ Younger users are likely to have more online friends, but older users tend to have more friends in real life. That is because social media encourages promiscuous friending of individuals who often have very tenuous links. Even though social media provides significant communication opportunities, time is a constraint that limits faceto-face interactions. And the lack of such interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship. Even in online environments, focus can be very limited due to the lack of time.