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I have 100s of Facebook friends, but...

Why do I need Pal?

The Happiness Research Institute might sound like something out of a Michel Gondry movie, but it’s a real thing, and a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to social media.

It’s the institute responsible for the 2016 Facebook Experiment*, which divided 1095 users into two groups, one continued to use Facebook normally for a week, and the other group were cut off completely.

The results of the experiment showed Facebook not only makes users sadder, lonelier and more worried, it also makes them less decisive, and less able to enjoy life.

Too much wonderful-ness isn’t always a good thing

A bit of data is comforting, but you could probably have predicted the Happiness results, all by yourself.

Think about it. People post positive on Facebook. It’s the made to measure medium for sharing personal wonderful-ness, which tends to make other users feel just a little less wonderful.

Obviously no one ever filters out the bad bits before posting, the very idea? It just so happens your friends’ lives are filled with rainbows and unicorns, every holiday they take is one bliss-making sunset after another, and their kids are cute 24/7 and super talented.

Okay, we all know most posts are carefully edited versions of reality, but that doesn’t stop us feeling discontented with our own lives when we read them.

“Seeing the whites of their eyes is how we build real friendships”

Professor Robin Dunbar, Anthropologist and Evolutionary Biologist, Magdalen College, Oxford

Good news is: Facebook isn’t real, and our primate brains still want to make real friends in the real world; if the results of the survey** carried out by Prof Robin Dunbar and his team is to be believed.

They surveyed over 3000 Facebook users, and found the average user has 150 friends, considers less than 25% of them genuine, and would only call four in an emergency.

Even users with much bigger Facebook networks, still had less than five real friends. And almost all users surveyed, used Facebook mainly to stop actual friendships fading, only when face-to-face contact wasn’t possible.

The evolutionary reasons are fascinating, but basically it all comes down to humans just preferring personal human connections over enormous virtual networks.

Carry out your own Facebook Experiment

Try your own Facebook Experiment: log off for a week, stop reading humble-brag posts for a whole seven days, and make an effort to meet real friends instead.

That’s 168 hours to scour the neighbourhood, or five minutes creating a profile and letting Pa do a local friend search for you.


*The Facebook Experiment: does social media affect the quality of our lives

**How Face to Face still beats Facebook by Professor Robin Dunbar, Magdalen College, Oxford