We do have a limited capacity of energy to socialize. Which means there are limits to a specific amount of people with whom we maintain personal boundaries.
So, those late-night conversations with strangers online consume the same energy that we keep for our friendships offline.
The PhD of Psychology at Oxford University, R.I.M. Dunbar, claims that human beings “can only handle about 150 friends, including family members”. The professor Dunbar and other researchers made a study built on investigation of brain scans. The study revealed that this number is based on an individual brain size: the extent of our neocortex, which is responsible for managing relationships, determines the quantity of people we know and keep social (offline and online) contact with.
Our time is restraint by hours and our priorities.
The GlobalWebIndex data reveals that in 2017 people on average spend “more than two hours a day on social media and messaging”. In addition, since 2012 it has increased half an hour, and it shall gradually increase over time.
The strength of our friendship depends on time we dedicated to it. The recent research of Dunbar shows that nowadays social media helps maintain our boundaries and manage large social networks which doesn’t affect our individual scope of relationships.
The limit of 150 friendships contains a specific volume of circles and layers that require a certain amount of regular commitments and interaction to maintain the relationship. So, normally closer and stronger fellowships take more of our time and affection.
As Denber counts, people interact “at least once a week with the inner core of five intimates, at least once a month with the next layer of 15 best friends, and at least once a year with the main layer of 150 ‘just friends.’” Family members and close relatives are an exception in this calculation: it demands less commitment to keep it going fluently.
The illusion of community
We can have thousands of friends on social media, but does it mean we can count on all of them? In most cases most of our online friends are acquaintances that some of them we have never seen or only met once in-person. “Social media misleads us to believe that we have a large, built-in support system, which is only a number in a real life.”
Liking other people posts, images or updating our status don’t improve our satisfaction of interaction online. People tend to look for mutual communication. For this reason, chatting with strangers seems as an attractive and effortless activity while staying in our comfort zone (behind the screen). However, using our energy for extensive social media interaction with strangers may be draining our general resources. Which means that people we love and care for will receive less of our attention with poorer quality time.
Mostly surface talks
The main advantage of social media is that it helps maintain long-distance friendships. But at the same time, it might cause a threat for quality of in-person social interaction. Several studies reveal that people who spend more time on social networks usually feel more lonely, anxious and depressed. Moreover, nowadays people tend to spend more time online instead of meeting their friends in-person.
At the same time, we might feel obligated to present our life in a very best way, because there is a fear of what other people might think. In this case our focus is directed towards us instead of properly analysing what other people are telling and how we can help in their matters. Somehow it becomes similar to a competition of a public attention. Moreover, it might make us better at storytelling, but negatively affect our storyliving.
The final point
The last part might sound a bit negative but being aware about ourselves and our actions can help improve our relationships with those 150 people and set adequate priorities of our time.