The friends who count…

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It comes as little surprise that news out today shows the average social media user has more friends online than in real life. This latest research shows that the average Joe has 55 physical friends but 121 online buddies.

Apparently, us Brits now spend at least two hours every single day trying to keep up with our online mates – phew! The way relationships are formed is, it seems, changing – and social media has a big part to play. According to the study, only five per cent of people would ask for someone’s phone number, whereas 23 per cent would ask for an email address or a full name to add them on a social network.

It’s certainly true that social media makes introductions easier. Two thirds of the survey respondents hailed the ‘ease’ of conducting online friendships from the comfort of their own home as the reason for their popularity. Given the instant connection of a tweet, it can sometimes seem like comparatively hard work to arrange to go out in the real world with your mates.

Participants also cited the confident attitude they could adopt with their online pals. True, we’re able to portray ourselves in the way we want online (ah, the good old ‘de-tag’ button) and so avoid any embarrassment or awkwardness.

But are we sacrificing the relationships that really count to entertain those 121 online buddies? Call me old fashioned, but, when push comes to shove, aren’t real life friends – the type you can go out for a meal with or share a 3am phone call with – the sort of friends we really need?