How many of your Facebook friends are friends?

It is not uncommon that people have a lot on friends on Facebook. The average American user has 350 buddies at the moment. It is undoubtedly fun to have many buddies, but are all of these people really friends with each other? Many of my contacts on there have 1000+ contacts and I cannot believe that they know them all that well. How many persons can you actually know?

Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary anthropologist who came up with the number 150, often referred to as Dunbar’s number. There is a widespread theory proclaims that it is the natural size of groups of people throughout the human evolution. Though the number varies somewhat in-between observed groups and societies it is believed that 150 is the common size of a social network. There have also been other propositions on how many persons one can have in its network, some are higher than Dunbar’s, however they are all far from the 1000+’s we can see online. One could think that the theory may not be applicable to online social networking, but Dunbar did a study himself in 2010 were he proved it was accurate online as well.

“The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends, but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world”

If the theory holds true, why do users have so many friends on Facebook? Dunbar speculated in that as well and suggested that “People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they’re unlikely to be bigger than anyone else’s.”, and I am determined to believe that it is so. Personally, I have only 67 friends on Facebook but I consider all of these actual friends and I clear our from time to time to keep it that way.

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