While not a resume or employment story, the rise of Facebook is telling. Indeed, recruiters often check out candidate’s Facebook pages to get inside information. But as a platform which hawks its relationship building credentials, how good it it.? This story appeared in the SMH last year. It was written by Charles Purcell, (August 6, 2019)
It’s a familiar story. It’s your birthday. The phone rings a few times as friends pass on their compliments. Maybe some gifts have already arrived. Perhaps some birthday cards arrive in the mail, some today, some over the next few days.
Then you turn on your computer and check your social media. You probably have about 150 Facebook friends (interesting number, that 150: more on that later). You’d probably expect half of them to send you birthday greetings.
Oddly, that doesn’t happen. Maybe only a dozen or so people actually wish you happy birthday on Facebook, despite Facebook’s attempt to engineer social bonhomie. At least, that’s what’s happened in my experience: something that irritates me every year. Am I really that unpopular? If I am, I’m not alone. Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar – creator of the famed Dunbar Number, which claims that the maximum number of people with which one can maintain stable social relationships is 150 – weighed into this very debate.
His Facebook research, based on data from UK users, revealed people have generally about four very close relationships – people we might consider true friends, people to whom we would turn in a real emotional or financial crisis. Having 1000 Facebook “friends” might feel good for the ego, but your true connection to them is tenuous at best.
The ultimate conclusion? Most of your Facebook friends are not your “real friends”. We might share cat memes en masse, but our souls with only a few. And there’s no substitute for real-life, face-to-face contact.
“No amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time,” said Dunbar.
Even the law seems to agree Facebook friends aren’t real friends. Last year, a Florida judge, Thomas Logue, stated: “Acceptance as a Facebook ‘friend’ may well once have given the impression of close friendship and affiliation. Currently, however, the degree of intimacy among Facebook ‘friends’ varies greatly.”
In the movie The Social Network, Sean Parker says: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities and now we are going to live on the internet.” He got it right and wrong. Yes, we live on the internet: yet the number of people we really share it with would fill a Neolithic farming village. And your number of true friends would probably fill one of its huts.
We might invite our 150 Facebook friends to a party, but we’d probably end up at a table drinking with just four of them. Something I’ll try to remember when it comes time to counting my birthday wishes on Facebook.