When you have like a thousand friends in Facebook, you might feel ecstatic at first, but how many among them actually care about you? A new study by Oxford University says that you can only count on a small percentage of your Facebook friends.

So, for the hundreds or even thousands of Facebook friends who give you greetings on your Birthday, who among them are your "real" friends? In the study, the author said that there is a cognitive constraint on the size of friends in social media sites that even the "communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome".

The study also sheds light in a theory known as the Social Brain Hypothesis, which states that the brain's capacity to process many relationships with others creates a natural group size of only 100 to 200 people.

Since social media allows you to connect to more than what the brain is designed for, it might cause a constraint. This is because when individuals are online, they are faced with multiple posts, tweets or photos that allow them to talk and indirectly interact with several people at the same time.

In his study titled, "Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks," Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, carried out the study by recruiting 3,375 people ages 18 to 65 years old. On average, the participants had 155 and 183 friends on Facebook in the first and second survey, respectively.

When asked who among their friends they considered "genuine" or "real", the first survey group considered only 28 percent. Among whom they considered real friends, they considered about four people as the ones they turn to for support in times of crisis and about 14 people as the ones they turn to for sympathy.

"Although social media may seem like the perfect way to make and maintain friendships, this research shows that face-to-face interaction is essential for truly authentic relationships and that shares, selfies and 'likes' are no replacement for the bonding that takes place whilst sharing food, experiences and anecdotes," Dunbar said in a statement.

So, if you have a lot of friends in Facebook, you might wonder, how many of them will actually help you in times of crisis?

The study is available online at the Royal Society Open Science.

Photo: Bhupinder Nayyar | Flickr 

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