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Are your Facebook friends really your friends?

Are your Facebook friends really your friends?

A recent article in the Guardian by Eliza Anyangwe, called 'How to nurture your four most important friends' refers to a research paper by evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar. It claims that you can only rely on 1 in 4 of your Facebook friends, and that close friendships need to be maintained in person. This got me thinking: what is defined as a really good friend, how often should we be seeing them and when the heck do we fit it in?  

Life seems so busy working, having frantic family lives with domestic chores, endless taxiing of kids and trying to fit in some ‘me’ time to get to the gym?

The paper claimed that our social circles have shrunk down to 150 people, and says that close friendships can only be maintained in person. I’m interested in this topic as a whole. Work is very important to me, as of course is my family life, but what of my friends? I do choose to invest time in my friendships which is hard when you’re a busy gal and yes, sometimes I do feel pushed and pulled to try and fit in drinks or even a quick coffee and a catch-up.

I diarise my catch ups, which I hate, no room for spontaneity, yet it’s always so worthwhile to have a giggle or to rant about my partners’ inability to sweep the kitchen floor correctly (Just saying Nick if you’re reading this).   So time spent in person with your friends, yes, in agreement with Robin Dunbar, it’s a good idea, but not entirely essential. So let’s get back to Facebook……

I have a number of friends that I made during a very special time in my life working in the States some 25yrs ago. The friends I made during this time do not live close by, I rarely see them, but we keep in touch through pen pals (now there’s a word we don’t hear any more, for those of you under the age of 25, that’s when we wrote a letter to someone with a pen, popped it in an envelope with a stamp and used something called, a letterbox), the house phone, emails and finally Facebook.  It makes those friends feel like they are there in person, almost. The importance of those friendships cannot be defined by how often we see each other; they are incredibly important in their own right. We pick up right were we have left off even though in some cases it may have been a decade without actual physical contact.  Does it make any difference, no it does not. Yes, we don’t know each other’s daily doings, but that never seems to matter, the meaning of the friendship remains intact.

So what is a good friendship? Of course, it’s all about trust, honesty, slagging off partners and moaning about teenage sons, but do we need to be with someone in person to do that? Yes, it helps to share our woes over a dirty margarita and to have a hug, but the long and short of it is, there cannot be a true definition of what a good, healthy friendship is all about.  For me if they make you smile, support you when you’re down and give you brilliant advice about which is best tent to buy, you’re onto a winner, whether they live round the corner or over the ocean. 

Sometimes is worth remembering all the fabulous friends you have in life and how they support you in different ways. That’s the benefit of having sets of different friends with different personalities and strengths. Knowing who to go to and when can make a huge difference when you need support. As a friendly hand we would like to share Our Support network sheet with you. Just click on the link to download and fill it in with all the fabulous friends you have who help with different things. It will instantly give you a lift knowing how supported you are and when in times of need will help you know who to go to.  

Juliette Yardley


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