Friends and so-called friends on Facebook

Photo courtesy: BBC
In many nations, including India, today (the first Sunday of August) is celebrated as Friendship Day, though the United Nations General Assembly has dedicated every July 30 for celebration of goodwill and affection among people. Not quite sure why different nations celebrate the same day on different dates.

I got a few Happy Friendship Day greetings today. But I saw plenty of them, quite strangely, floating around on social media.

Whenever I think about the word "friends", I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg spoiled that word. Imagine, people having hundreds of friends!


I don't know if there is an exact or true definition of it. But I guess, a friend is someone with whom we don't have any inhibitions in sharing something that is personal; with whom we would open up and show them our personal albums; whom we readily trust; and with whom we have a healthy give-and-take relationship of wise counsel and support.

Can we actually have hundreds of such people as friends? I really don't think so.

According to a Pew Research study in 2014, an average Facebook user has 338 friends. But are they really 'friends'?


Well-known British anthropologist Robin Dunbar made a correlation between the size of our brain and the size of our social group. He then came up with what is called the Dunbar Number which is 150. That is the maximum number of people we can have in our social circle. Our brain simply doesn't allow us to have more than that.

Dunbar also said that these 150 fall in four layers or circles. It is called the Dunbar Layers. At any point of time, the innermost or intimate circle of friends has just five people. The next circle has 10 more; the next another 35; and the last layer of a person's social group has another 100 - altogether making up the total of 150.


Since Zuckerberg is counting everyone in my Facebook contacts as 'friends', I have created a separate List, called Close Friends, in which there are just about 50, who form my friendly social group. Any personal posts are shared only with them. The rest are all acquaintances, colleagues, schoolmates, professional contacts etc.

Sometimes, when I look through my contacts (so-called friends) on Facebook, I find some whom I can barely recollect, who they are, or where I met them. I check the so-called mutual friends. And if I am still clueless, I remove them from my list.

I guess, Robin Dunbar is right. What do you think?

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