Survey of 3,000+ adults shows that people consider less than a quarter of one’s Facebook friends to be “true friends” in real life, with the average person seeing seven friendships fizzle thanks to social media reliance.
LONDON — Social media addiction makes it harder for people to make — and keep — friends in real life, a new study suggests.
That’s because relying on social networks to connect with one another leads people to go out less and worsens friendships, according to a survey of 3,053 British adults commissioned by the French alcoholic beverage company Pernod Ricard.
The survey found that six in ten respondents meet up with friends less frequently, with 55 percent agreeing that social media has made relationships with friends more superficial. Not surprisingly, the average person has drifted apart from seven friends, placing the blame squarely on seeing one another in person far less than they used.
Respondents say beyond social media, working long hours, being a parent, and living farther away from their friends all contribute to a fading friendship.
In looking at their large group of friends on Facebook, the average respondent would classify just 23 percent of them as true friends in real life. A third of those surveyed admit they wish they had more close friends now than they actually do.
Overall, the average person has 12 “real” friends, but feel they can only confide in four of them.
“The limit of friends you have is set by your capacity to invest time and mental effort in them. That’s why people who are in love typically can only cope with four other close relationships – because they’re already investing a lot of time and effort in the object of their affection,” says professor Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, in a statement. “However the more close relationships you have, the higher your levels of happiness are. With this in mind, making small changes to our lifestyles like cutting down on social media can give us more time and space in the ‘real world’ to embrace convivial moments with friends.”
Dunbar says such lifestyle changes and a greater focus on personal time together “is what creates close, fulfilling and happy friendships.”
Still, about one in five respondents say Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram use has been a positive force in their lives, leading to new, real-life friendships. The key to not letting a friendship fizzle, according to 56 percent of those surveyed, is conviviality, or sharing genuine moments with friends and loved ones.
The survey was conducted by market research firm OnePoll.