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Facebook Pals Are Not Real Friends: Study

Update Date: Jan 26, 2016 10:46 AM EST

In the present day, a question about number of friends will eventually tilt towards Facebook. Researchers however say you cannot count most of your FB friends among the real friends.

According to Christian Science Monitor, a new study found that users cannot count more than 15 of their Facebook friends as real friends. Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who studied friendships on social networks, attributed the small number to ability to maintain relationships.

"As originally proposed by the social brain hypothesis, there is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome. 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," he wrote in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

For the study, Dunbar used two samples comprising nearly 3,500 adults. He sought details about Facebook friendships, including who they respondents considered real friends. He found that respondents averaged at five friends on Facebook who could be called 'real friends', part of their inner circle. Though younger people tend to have larger social networks, their real world social circles are not any larger than those of people in older age groups.

The findings of the study resonate with those of others which concluded that relationships still require real world efforts to sustain.

"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. However, that alone may not be sufficient to prevent friendships eventually dying naturally if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction," Dunbar wrote.

Through his study, Dunbar also found that younger people tend to move away from Facebook to other platforms like Vine, Snapchat, Flickr and Instagram for privacy.

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