How many friends do you have on Facebook?

Did you know that users joining the week Facebook hit 50 million users (October 2007) now have an average number of 321 friends (download the report from Facebook here).

But having lots of friends on Facebook may not be good for your health.

According to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.

A report from the University of Edinburgh Business School has found that the more groups of people in someone’s Facebook friends, the greater potential to cause offence. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.

Stress arises when a user presents a version of themself on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online ‘friends’, such as posts displaying behaviour such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.

The press release about the report comments:

“As older people join the site, this has become an increasing problem as their expectations may be very different from those of younger users.

Some 55 per cent of parents follow their children on Facebook. Likewise, more than half of employers claim not to have hired someone based on their Facebook page.”

Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles including:

– friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online)

– extended family (81 per cent)

– siblings (80 per cent)

– friends of friends (69 per cent)

– and colleagues (65 per cent).

The report also discovered that more people are Facebook friends with their former partners than with their current relationship partner. Only 56 per cent of users were friends with their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse online, compared with 64 per cent of exes.

The report surveyed more than 300 people on Facebook, mostly students, with an average age of 21.

It also discovered that only one third use the listing privacy setting on their Facebook profile, which can be used to control the information seen by different types of friends.

It would be interesting to learn how this data would differ based on different demographic profiles.

Have more friends on Facebook caused you stress?

The stress I experience through social media is usually caused by due to trying to keep up with all the interesting posts and being worried I may miss something important!

Three Practical Actions To Take If Having Too Many Facebook Friends Is Causing You Stress

Perhaps it is time to do the following – though of course you could always delete your Facebook account which I find some people are doing often related to privacy reasons rather than being ‘stressed’:

1. Review your Facebook friends and decide if they need ‘pruning’. You can always encourage people to subscribe to your public updates using the Facebook subscribe button – some well known people have been known to delete all their friends and start over building their community of friends on their Facebook profile

2. Update your privacy settings on Facebook. Be are clear what updates you post are shared to the people you want to see your content – you can create lists of Friends to help you manage your contacts

3. Hide updates in your Newsfeed if they don’t add value to you i.e. you are not interested in seeing the updates. If you do not want to delete someone as a friend on Facebook, take time to review your Newsfeed and hide the content from friends you prefer not to see all their posts.

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What other suggestions do you have? Please do leave a comment below with your thoughts and recommendations.

By the way – how did I come across this research? As a result of a mention on BBC News an article in todays Daily Mail Newspaper in the UK of course – yes traditional media still matters!

And of you are interested in how many friends can we really have then check out the research about Dunbars Number – it’s less than you may think.

[View the story “Dunbars Number” on Storify]

Photo credit: Mijonju on Flickr