Friends: Quality vs. quantity


Friendship isn't a popularity contest, but sites like Facebook and Twitter can make it seem like one.

It's easy to have lots of friends online, and it's nice to feel loved, but having fewer online friends or followers means you can spend more time staying in touch with people you have a genuine connection with, instead of scrolling through endless updates.

With fewer friends and followers, there's less chance for misunderstandings and pointless arguments because your real friends usually know what you mean, especially online.

Fewer friends also means you're less likely to get caught up in things like:  

  • having your identity stolen
  • being targeted by online predators
  • having embarrassing pictures spread around the globe 
  • saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Cutting back your friends list

There might be a lot of people following you that you've forgotten about – it's a good idea to go through your list and see who's watching what you do online.

The ideal human tribe is 150 people. Most sociologists think that's about as many people as most humans can deal with happily - online or offline. That figure of 150 is known as "Dunbar's Number" - look it up if you want to find out more.

Aim for a great list rather than the longest list. That might mean sticking to: 

  • close friends
  • family
  • people passionate about the same things as you 
  • groups that keep you up to date with what you're interested in. 

Get into the habit of culling your friends and followers regularly. Once every couple of months, twice a year - it's up to you.

Have a think about people:

  • you haven't heard from
  • you hear from too much
  • you don't really know at all.

If unfriending is too hard, start by just removing them from your feed. If you don't miss them, maybe it's time to let them go.

For more about friends and helping friends out visit our Friendships page.

Picture this...

You've been accepting friend requests every time they turn up. You never know who you might meet online. The more the merrier. It's nice to have so many updates coming your way.

You even had a friending competition with your three besties at school – you topped out at 1789. It was super easy with the Find Friends button on Facebook.

Maybe you should have checked a few of those friends out, or even sorted through them after the competition, because it looks like - somewhere in there - was Annabelle's stepsister. So was Lucy's aunty. They'd never commented or liked anything - you didn't even really know they were your friends.

So when you posted those shots of you at Justin's birthday BBQ, it didn't go down so well. In fact, for online friends who never said anything, they managed to get in contact with your mum super fast.

She was pretty interested to know what you were doing at that party when you said you were pulling an all-nighter at Brendan's to study for your exams.

It's made you aware of the 1714 people out there who've been watching you without saying anything. You thought they weren't interested, but, now, well, it's hard to know what they're doing with your information.

At least you'll have time to go through the list now you're grounded for a month. Although you've recently scored two new friends – your mum and dad.


eSafety - Social Networking
Information about managing social networks and online friendships.

Wikihow - How to be discerning with your Facebook friends
Tips for approaching your first friendship cull.

Advice about staying in control on the web.

Australian film about a group of school friends who post a rumour about a rival and spark a chain reaction that leaves no one untouched.