One of the secrets of Facebook’s success has been the way it allows us to maintain relationships we value over distances that in the past would have meant that the relationships died a natural death within a relatively short space of time. Facebook enables us to keep friends with those we met at school, previous jobs, reconnect with childhood friends and all those groups of people that we meet in various stages of life.
But time spent on the internet is time taken away from interacting with family and friends face to face and this time seems to be critical especially for men; women somehow are able to keep relationships going by phone or over the internet whereas men like to connect face to face.
How important is it to spend real time with people? In my experience – very, otherwise people drift apart.
Research shows (Robin Dunbar “The Signs of Love and Betrayal”) that we spend around 40% of our total social time with our 5 closest friends and family and around 60% with our 15 best friends and family. Our social time accounts for around 20% of our 18 hour waking day. To devote the 5% of time that we give to each of our 15 best friends to all of our 150 members of our full social network would require that we devote 27 hours a day to face to face interaction. Obviously impossible. So although social media offers opportunities to extend our social horizon in reality we still spend most of our time with our closest friends and that generally seems to be face to face. There is something about face to face interactions that makes a difference. We are much less content after a digital interaction than after meeting someone face to face.