I found this article and the concepts it discusses compelling enough that I wanted to share it.
Two basic principles are at the heart of the articles’ title.
The first constraint on our ability to maintain friendships is that our brains only have the capacity to maintain about 150. Of those relationships our 5 closest friends require about 40% of our attention and the 15 closest about 60 percent of our attention. The rest of our ‘just friends’ require annual contact.
From an interview with R.I.M. Dunbar, PhD, a professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford:
“So what happens if you have a friend or follower number greater than 150 on your social media networks? Dunbar says it’s a meaningless number. “We are fooling ourselves,” he explains. “You can certainly sign up as many people as you like, but that doesn’t make them friends. All we are doing is signing up people that we would normally think of as acquaintances in the offline world.”
The second constraint that we run into in terms of building and maintaining relationships is time.
“The time you invest in a relationship determines the strength of the relationship,” Dunbar says. But Dunbar’s recent study suggests that even though social media allows us to “break through the glass ceiling” of maintaining offline relationships and have larger social networks, it doesn’t overcome our natural capacity for friendships.
He says we need to interact “at least once a week for the inner core of five intimates, at least once a month for the next layer of 15 best friends, and at least once a year for the main layer of 150 ‘just friends.’” The exception being family members and relatives, who require less constant interaction to maintain connections.
The large number of ‘friends’ we may have attached to our social media accounts can do more harm than good in terms of draining our limited friendship resources. Social media has already been proven to have negative effects on emotional well being from increased depression and anxiety to feelings of loneliness.
“Social media advertises itself as increasing our connections to each other, but several studies show that people who spend more time on social media are actually more lonely, not less,” says Jean Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.” Her article for The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” made waves earlier this year (2017) and caused many millennials and post millennials, to do exactly what can stress people out: Express moral outrage.
But Twenge’s research isn’t unfounded. She has researched the effects of social media use on teenagers, finding that the newest generation is spending less time hanging out with friends and more time interacting online. This trend has a correlation to findings of teen depression and feelings of disconnect and increased loneliness.
The basic message I took from this article is that you have limited ability to have quality relationships which as extremely important to mental health. The solution is to focus on our most important relationships and recognize that online relationships are not of the same quality. If we are trying to maintain a large number of relationships if affects the quality of all of our relationships.
Being on your smartphone can drain the energy that could’ve been spent engaging in real-life interactions with your friends or family. Social media is never the prescription for staving off boredom, anxiety, or loneliness. At the end of the day, your favorite people are.
Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health. More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better, especially as we get older. A recent cross-sectional study of over 270,000 adults found that strains from friendship predicted more chronic illnesses. So don’t keep your friends at arm’s length, locked in your phone and DMs.
In order to have high-quality friendships we need to focus our relationship energy on the important, close friendships in our lives and spend less time and effort on casual, online-only, low-quality relationships. It will help us all to be in a better place mentally and emotionally. We will be better friends and have higher-quality relationships.
About the Author:
Terry has been an entrepreneur in the IT industry for over 30 years. Go here to read his complete personal story, “Husband, father, Grandfather and IT Executive.”
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