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Are Facebook Friends Real Friends?

Looking at how Facebook friendship and "real life" friendship go hand-in-hand, or not?

Women who have 500 Facebook friends only really interact with about 5 percent of them, and for men it's even less. So what does this say about Facebook friendship?

In a recent Newsweek article, 50-something mom Robin Marantz Henig says she's worried that social media, like Facebook, is messing up "good old-fashioned friendship" and wonders if young people will look back with regret after spending so much time chatting and messaging instead of seeing people in-person.

"But with so much of friendship in this age group now being navigated online, an essential question is what the effect of that interaction is. And as a mother of two young adults, I feel this question personally. Will my younger daughter, Samantha, 28, some day feel that she missed out somehow on this crucial life resource?"

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A May study by the Pew Research Center found that overall people have an average of 229 friends on Facebook. But when you break that out into age groups, the numbers shift:

  • Age 18-35: Average of 318.5 friends
  • Age 35-46: Average of 197.6 friends
  • Age 47-56: Average of 155.7 friends
  • Age 57-65: Average of 85.1 friends

Does that ring true for you? And how many of these friends do you actually communicate with regularly, whether on Facebook or in "real life"?

The Newsweek article, which excerpts Henig's book with her daughter Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?, cites a 2009 study for The Economist to come up with the 5 percent actual interaction figure for women. That amounts to interactions with about 26 friends out of 500, and just 17 out of 500 for men.

How has Facebook affected the amount of time you spend with friends? Do you consider Facebook friends "real" friends?

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