Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

You may have 250 Facebook friends, but only two are close pals, says study

Stock photo | Getty Images | BananaStock/Stock photo | Getty Images | BananaStock

You may have a multitude of Facebook friends and plenty of Twitter followers, but how many people count as your close pals?

According to a new U.S. study of more than 2,000 adults, people have only an average of 2.03 close friends. That's one friend less than respondents said they had in a 1985 survey.

"These are the people you think of as your real confidants, your go-to people if you need something," Cornell University sociologist Matthew Brashears, who conducted the study, told ABC News.

Story continues below advertisement

In an online poll, Dr. Brashears asked participants to list the names of individuals with whom they discussed "important matters" over the previous six months. Forty-eight per cent listed only one close friend, 18 per cent listed two, 29 per cent listed more than two, and about four per cent didn't list anyone.

That doesn't necessarily mean social circles are shrinking. But it could mean that we categorize friends and acquaintances differently, ABC reported. Even though social media helps us connect with more people, there are fewer people we lean on when it comes to intimate matters.

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

One scientist has suggested our brains may actually limit the number of friends we're able to maintain. In a book, released in 2010, titled How Many Friends Does One Person Need? , British evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar suggested that our brains are able to keep track of only about 150 relationships at one time.

Beyond this, the more friends we have, the less we're likely to know them, Scientific American Mind reported. The 150-friend limit takes into account that relationships fall along a spectrum. At one end, we have a core group of about five people with whom we talk to once a week, the magazine says. On the other end, we have a group of around 100 people with whom we speak once a year.

Do these findings accurately reflect your social network?

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.