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Are Face Book Friends Real Friends?

Posted by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:18 AM
  • 37 Replies

 

We may "friend" more people on Facebook, but we have fewer real friends -- the kind who would help us out in tough times, listen sympathetically no matter what, lend us money or give us a place to stay if we needed it, keep a secret if we shared one.

That's the conclusion made by Matthew Brashears, a Cornell University sociologist who surveyed more than 2,000 adults from a national database and found that from 1985 to 2010, the number of truly close friends people cited has dropped -- even though we're socializing as much as ever.

On average, participants listed 2.03 close friends in Brashears' survey. That number was down from about three in a 1985 study.

"These are the people you think of as your real confidants, your go-to people if you need something," Brashears said.

Brashears asked people online from a database called TESS -- Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences -- to list the names of people with whom they had discussed "important matters" over the previous six months. He reports the results in a forthcoming issue of the journal Social Networks.

Forty-eight percent of participants listed one close friend when asked, 18 percent listed two and 29 percent listed more. A little more than 4 percent didn't list anyone.

What's going on? Brashears said his survey can't tell us conclusively, but his guess is that while we meet just as many people as we used to, we categorize them differently.

Does that mean we're more isolated in these times when we seem to meet more people online than in person? (How many of your Facebook "friends" are really friends of yours?) Defying some of the stereotypes of the digital age, social scientists say Facebook may actually be healthy for us. Keith Hampton at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a report for the Pew Research Center in which he found that "Internet users in general, but Facebook users even more so, have more close relationships than other people."

"Facebook users get more overall social support, and in particular they report more emotional support and companionship than other people," wrote Hampton in a blog post. "And, it is not a trivial amount of support. Compared to other things that matter for support -- like being married or living with a partner -- it really matters. Frequent Facebook use is equivalent to about half the boost in support you get from being married."

But online contact and personal contact are different. While Hampton reports we know more people because of Facebook and similar sites, Brashears reports there are fewer whom we choose to trust with our most intimate worries.

"We're not becoming asocial," said Brashears, "but these people give us social support, and they give us advice."

by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:18 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:21 AM

I guess I'm old school, because I only have friends, acquaintances from school and former colleagues on my FB account.

romalove
by Roma on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:21 AM

 I have some very good friends on Facebook.  I also have people I'm friendly with, acquiantances, people who work for me, a couple of relatives, old school chums....a motley mix. 

I think Facebook can be very helpful in keeping in touch with people you might otherwise lose touch with.  That can be a great thing.

whimsyjuggalett
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:22 AM

My facebook friends list on consists of family, and old friends who are now acquaintances, that I grew up with or were close friends with while I was in school.

muslimah
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:26 AM

 I don't friend anyone that I don't actually know. I have about 3 friends from CM but they are people who I talk to on the phone and message on a regular basis.


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_Bama_
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:27 AM

I think they are...I keep facebook around just for that... I like being able to talk to my family and friends.  I dont do drama though... or even the hint that there could be drama.... I take care of that immediately.

stormcris
by Christy on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:32 AM

On Facebook I have family, personal RL friends, then I also have RL acquaintances, then I have long lost people I knew in school that live no where near me but I actually knew and was close to, then I have gaming friends who I know from playing online games and then I have people who play certain games on facebook that I friend and random other people.

I really do not put personal stuff on facebook and all my statuses while completely something that relates to my personality are from status shuffle. For personal anything I either use chat on there or message a person directly.

muslimah
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:33 AM

 

Quoting _Bama_:

I think they are...I keep facebook around just for that... I like being able to talk to my family and friends.  I dont do drama though... or even the hint that there could be drama.... I take care of that immediately.

 I have deleted a few because of drama. I also deleted a few from high school because they turned out to be islamaphobics and I don't need friends like that.

Me, myself I really don't even post or comment except once in a great while I just like to keep up with other have to say.


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_Bama_
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Im trying to develop that as a habit.  :)

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting _Bama_:

I think they are...I keep facebook around just for that... I like being able to talk to my family and friends.  I dont do drama though... or even the hint that there could be drama.... I take care of that immediately.

 I have deleted a few because of drama. I also deleted a few from high school because they turned out to be islamaphobics and I don't need friends like that.

Me, myself I really don't even post or comment except once in a great while I just like to keep up with other have to say.


sugareemommee
by Bronze Member on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:43 AM

I know every single person on my facebook as well.  I recently went through and erased anyone I hadn't talked to since HS.  I have less than 200 friends and I will not accept strangers. 

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

I guess I'm old school, because I only have friends, acquaintances from school and former colleagues on my FB account.


punky3175
by on Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:45 AM

 I only "friend" those people I actually know.  And I periodically go through and unfriend those who I really care about keeping in touch with.

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