How many friends can you really rely on? Before you answer, you might not want to base that number on your collection of Facebook friends.
According to a study recently published by the Royal Society of Open Science, no matter how many friends you have on Facebook – and no matter how much you interact with them on the platform – you can only rely on about four of those people to be there for you when it really matters.
The report – titled “Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks?” – was designed to examine whether social media has expanded our real-life social circles.
The study surveyed 2,000 social-media-using adults of various ages in the U.K. and 1,375 adults who work 9-to-5 jobs.
According to the sample, although the average person surveyed had more than 150 Facebook friends, only four of those friends were considered part of a “support clique” – defined as friends you could depend on for support in a time of crisis.
As for close friends – you know the people who might not be a source of unwavering support, but still show they care about you? The study found people had an average of just 13 friends in that category.
“The fact that social networks remain about the same size despite the communication opportunities provided by social media suggests that the constraints that limit face-to-face networks are not fully circumvented by online environments,” read the study.
“Instead, it seems that online social networks remain subject to the same cognitive demands of maintaining relationships that limit offline friendships.”
The study was conducted by Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, who previously published a paper claiming humans can only handle approximately 150 meaningful relationships at once – now known as “Dunbar’s number.”