If you’re in the habit of collecting friends online, you’ve probably noticed that having a higher number of Facebook friends doesn’t necessarily make for a better social networking experience. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users checking in daily, but as their lists of friends grow, many of them are beginning to find their news feed to be a source of discontentment.
A recent study presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting has managed to quantify the maximum number of Facebook friends one can maintain without experiencing correlated discontent.
Researchers asked a group of Facebook users between ages 18 and 65 to view status updates written by some of their friends. Then the participants were asked to rate how satisfying their own lives were. The results showed that those who read their friends’ Facebook updates first found their lives much less satisfying than those who did not look at Facebook.
How Many Facebook Friends Is Too Many?
The study determined that 354 was the maximum number of Facebook friends one could have before visiting the social networking site made them feel less happy with their lives. The further above this tipping point your number of Facebook friends is, the increasingly less satisfied Facebook may make you feel about your real life.
So why can something as arbitrary as your number of online friends give you such a negative perspective on your life? The fact is simply that we often rate our own success levels in relation to how well our friends and peers are doing.
Facebook provides a very limited view of our friends’ lives, demonstrated through status updates, pictures and other details such as changes of address, occupation and relationship status. However, most people only post about the exciting and significant moments in their lives; they only post flattering pictures of themselves and don’t advertise when things don’t go well for them. The result is a carefully constructed highlight reel of everyone else’s lives, which, if compared to the behind-the-scenes of your own life, can make you feel less satisfied with your achievements, imperfections, and reality.
If you have a higher number of Facebook friends, you’ll be exposed to more frequent updates about someone else’s picture-perfect lifestyle living abroad, or recent engagement, or promotion. Which can be a good thing, if you care about the people whose success you are reading about; but when your newsfeed is crowded with old acquaintances and practical strangers, you’re prone to feeling jealousy rather than joy.
Luckily, you can unsubscribe from seeing updates from certain people. Or, simply cut down on your total number of Facebook friends to include only real-life friends. You’ll be much more satisfied reading about your true friends’ successes than those of your retired dentist.