If you’re like most people, a quick scan through your Facebook connections may leave you puzzled. Unless you participate in a regular purging in your friends list, there are probably more than a few names that you hardly recognize. Whether they were a random add or a friend of a friend, people’s social orbits are getting too big to keep a handle on everyone. It’s probably an even murkier subject than you think.
It’s time to reevaluate, people, because according to a new study, half of the people that you consider to be at least casual friends don’t reciprocate. NY Mag reported on a study in the journal PLoS One that found only about 53% of your friendships are as mutual as you think. According to NY Mag,
The study authors gave a survey to 84 college students in the same class, asking each one to rate every other person in the study on a scale of zero (“I do not know this person”) to five (“One of my best friends”), with three as the minimum score needed to qualify for friendship. The participants also wrote down their guesses for how each person would rate them.
Now, there are definitely a lot of factors to take into account when analyzing this study. The participants are all college students, and undergraduate relationships are notoriously nebulous. Peripheral friendships can shift based on the party schedule, and it’s easy to misinterpret the level of friendship forged at keggers. And while there were 1,353 different friendship cases examined in the study, that is still a relatively small test group.
Still, the results are a little disheartening. 94% of the participating students and the 3,160 other friendships from similar studies reported that they thought that the people they were ranking would reciprocate their level of feeling, while in reality there were only 34% to 53% of friendships that had mutual levels of connection. According to the writers of the study,
“These findings suggest a profound inability of people to perceive friendship reciprocity, perhaps because the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one’s self-image.”
While it’s easy to get depressed in the face of such statistics, perhaps it’s better to interpret these findings as a call to focus on the friendships that really matter. Instead of trying to please people that aren’t ever going to give you a second thought, spend your time with the people who really love and value your relationship.
(Via NY Mag)