Too Many Friends?


Despite all the connectivity with texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media, feelings of isolation are becoming a serious problem.

Techies from across the country gathered in Austin this week for a conference about the future of technology. They reached an interesting conclusion—we have too many friends. 

"We're starting to max out the number of people that we can connect with," said Matthew S. Weber, a senior researcher and doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. "Great that you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but you really can't maintain those relationships and maintain those contacts." 

According to researchers, human brains can only handle 150 friendships, and all the time we spend chatting, IM-ing, friending, and tweeting with people online takes away from our face-to-face conversations and activities. 

Interestingly, the girls we interviewed for Lies Young Women Believe told us that they longed for more friends. They said things like:

"Last week I came home one night and cried for like an hour and a half because I just don't feel like I have a friend at school."

"I feel like everyone else is in pairs and that I just kind of float from pair to pair as the third wheel. I just don't see how I fit in."

"I'm lonely every day."

I spent time with these girls. I can tell you that they weren't loners. Their cell phones never stopped buzzing with new text messages, emails, and status updates. They had full social calendars and long lists of people they called "friends," and yet many of them felt very alone in the world. 

I am wondering if the same is true for you. Do you have gobs of friends on Facebook but feel like there's no one you can talk to about the issues that really matter? Do you have plenty of people you can text but very few you can sit down and have a serious conversation with? Do you project an image online of a girl who's got it all together but secretly hide a secret or habit that you wouldn't dare share? Is it possible that you've forfeited meaningful relationships for the illusion of connectedness?

I'm not dogging electronic media. I know that Facebook, text messaging, emails, and instant messaging have become deeply woven into the way we all function in the world, and I think they're here to stay. But I wonder if it's possible that all that connection is putting us in isolation. 

Take an assessment of your own relationships. Do you go deep or stay on the surface with your friends? Do you have people you can talk to about the big issues or struggle to go beyond status updates? What can you do today to create meaningful friendships?  

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