May 11, 2011

Social Network Users Have More Online Friends

Users of social networking sites such as Facebook have twice the number of friends online as they do in real life, according to new study by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in Britain.

The survey of 3,000 participants found that the typical British social network user has 121 friends online, compared with 55 real life friends. 

The study also revealed that one in 10 people found their best friend online, and that people tend to be more truthful with their online friends.  Ten percent of survey participants also believe they will meet and develop strong, life-long friendships via the Internet.

Nearly 90% of the participants said that online friendships are a lifeline to people who aren't able to physically socialize as much as they'd like.

"In wider society, the ways in which friendships are formed and nurtured is changing with people recognizing that they can develop deep, meaningful connections with others that they've never met, and may never meet," Clinical Psychologist Helen Oxley at Manchester Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre, Wythenshawe hospital, told The Telegraph.

"For most people, the Internet is a way of keeping in touch with loved ones and friends but for people who are isolated due to illness, it plays a more vital role and can often act as a lifeline," Oxley said.

"People with illnesses often rely on the Internet's ability to facilitate friendships as they blog and use networking sites as a way of coming to terms with, and dealing with their illness. It can foster a sense of social connection for those who can frequently feel isolated, which is important to psychological wellbeing."

CF Trust said they conducted the research to examine the important role the Internet plays to those suffering with illnesses, such as CF, which may prevent them from socializing as much as they would like.

"Online networks have enabled people to form strong bonds with others who they may not be able to spend time with in the physical world," said Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

"The social aspect of the web is very important to many people with Cystic Fibrosis, especially those who are no longer able to get out and about easily for various reasons."

"Without the advent of social networks, many people with CF would feel very isolated, especially from one another, as people with CF are advised not to meet face-to-face due to the risk of cross-infection, they can pass different bacteria to each other which may be harmful," he said.

CF is an inherited, life-threatening disease that affects primarily the lungs and digestive system.


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