New Study Shows You Can Only Handle So Many Facebook Friends

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Friends Socializing

Have you ever looked at someones friends list on Facebook or number of Twitter followers and wonder just how they keep track of all of them? Well, according to this new Oxford study, they don’t. “One in, one out” is the newest way to justify why you may have lost touch with your friend from kindergarten or that lab partner from freshman year you swore you’d never forget.

By getting participants to rank the members of their social network (family included), each person created what is called a “social signature”, which depicts “their particular way of allocating communication across the members of their social network.” Based on the participant’s cell phone activity, a social signature was created to map out how they interacted with each person they ranked.

Even though each study participant had made adjustments to their friend group (going away to school, a new work environment, etc.) the actual signatures created at the beginning of the study remained intact. This signature featured a finite number of individual relationships that were actively decided within the person’s brain as valuable social interaction and got rid of others deemed not as important. This means that even though you may have, let’s say, six close friends at that start of the study, you will more than likely end up still with six friends, but they may not all be the same ones that you began with.

The study aimed to prove that the brain can only handle so much social stimulation before resorting to replacing unused or unwanted interactions for better, newer ones. This goes hand-in-hand with a study that came out in 2011, showing that you can actually really only keep track of around 200 friends, because humans just aren’t mean to have more than that amount of social responsibility. While this study showed that it isn’t uncommon that online, people have hundreds of thousands of friends, they really only can keep a valuable interaction going with anywhere between 150 to 200 individuals, but how many of these interactions are  really “valued?”

‘While this number varies from person to person,” says Dr. Felix Reed-Tsochas, “what holds true in all cases is that at any point individuals are able to keep up close relationships with only a small number of people, so that new friendships come at the expense of ‘relegating’ existing friends.”

All I have to say is, Sam Weir has never been more right.

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[University of Oxford]

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