Social etiquette in the modern era means playing nice on sites like Facebook. Social etiquette in the modern era means playing nice on sites like Facebook. Social etiquette in the modern era means playing nice on sites like Facebook. (Photo: Nevodka / Shutterstock)

This study will make you think about how many Facebook friends you have

A new analysis looks at how our social media life reflects our real life.

Does size matter? When it comes to your social media followers, the answer is a resounding "no."

That's one of the conclusions of a groundbreaking study led by Omri Gillath, an Israel-born professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas who received multiple degrees from the University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University, both in Israel. The study was published recently in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

He worked with his colleagues and co-authors Gery Karantzas in Australia and Emre Selcuk in Turkey. They examined attachment style, which is basically how people behave in relationships. They looked at both the real-life social circles of their participants and their social media circles. And they focused on several personality traits, including anxiety and avoidance, and how those behaviors affect tie strength (how close you are to the people in your network) and multiplexity (how many activities and functions you do with those people).

seinfeld nikki the bloneLow tie strength, high multiplexity. That's the entire dating life of Jerry Seinfeld in a nutshell. (Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

If you have an anxious personality, for instance, the study says you may be more likely to report people distancing themselves from you.

"Network members may feel smothered and dissolve the ties," Gillath said.

Conversely, if you have an avoidant personality, you are likely to be the one doing the distancing: maybe you don't respond to a friend request from an old college friend, or you unfriend someone you feel you aren't connecting with.

"If you're high on attachment avoidance, you're trying to avoid intimacy and tend not to trust others – downplaying the importance of emotions and relationships," Gillath said. "Conversely, if you're high on attachment anxiety, you're very concerned with rejection and abandonment and tend to be overwhelmed by emotions."

Those are all interesting findings for sure, but they are also pretty obvious. But don't worry: Gillath et al didn't stop there. They also asked participants to identify the number of their social media followers, and they discovered something they didn't expect.

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"We found the more friends you have in your network, the lower your tie strength and multiplexity – size dilutes the quality of your networks' ties," Gillath said.

"There are many things that can be bad about social networks ..." Gillath said. "However, if you're using your social networks for fulfilling or serving your attachment needs – such as a secure base or safe haven – that's likely to result in positive outcomes."

So while you might be in an unspoken race to gather more followers than your ex, it turns out that your plentiful friend list means you've got some work to do in the relationship department. Translation: It's about quality, not quantity.


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