Friends: Quality vs. Quantity


Friendship isn't a popularity contest, but sites like Facebook and Twitter can make it seem like one.

It's easy to have lots of friends online, and it's nice to feel loved, but having fewer online friends or followers means you can spend more time staying in touch with people you have a genuine connection with, instead of scrolling through endless updates.

With fewer friends and followers, there's less chance for misunderstandings and pointless arguments because your real friends usually know what you mean, especially online.

Fewer friends also means you're less likely to get caught up in having your identity stolen, targeted by online predators, having those embarrassing pictures spread around the globe, or telling the wrong thing to the wrong person.

There might be a lot of people following you that you've forgotten about – it's a good idea to go through your list and see who is watching what you do online.

Aim for a great list (close friends, family, people who are passionate about the same things as you, groups that keep you up to date with what you're really interested in) rather than the longest list.

The ideal human tribe is 150 people. Most sociologists think that's about as many people as most humans can deal with happily - online or offline. (That figure of 150 is known as "Dunbar's Number" - Google it if you want to find out more.)

Get into the habit of culling your friends and followers regularly. Once every couple of months, twice a year - it's up to you. Look at who you haven't heard from, who you hear from too much, who you don't really know at all. If unfriending is too hard, try just removing them from your feed. If you don't miss them, maybe it's time to let them go.

Picture This...

You've been accepting friend requests every time they turn up. You never know who you might meet online. The more the merrier. It's nice to have so many updates coming your way.

You even had a friending competition with your three besties at school – you topped out at 1,789. It was super easy with the Find Friends button on Facebook.

Maybe you should have checked a few of those friends out, or even sorted through them after the competition, because it looks like - somewhere in there - was Annabelle's stepsister. Lucy's aunty was in there too. They'd never commented or liked anything - you didn't even really know they were your friends.

So when you posted those shots of the four of you from Justin's BBQ with the bottles of vodka, it didn't go down so well.

In fact, for online friends who had never said anything, they managed to get in contact with your mum super fast.

It's made you aware of the 1,714 people out there who've been watching you without saying anything. You thought they weren't interested, but, now, well, it's hard to know what they're doing with your information.

At least you'll have time to go through the list now you're grounded for a month. Although you've recently scored two new friends – your mum and dad.


Below the Belt: Sex, Selfies & Cyberbullying
A free Android app with info about laws on sex and consent, sexting and cyberbullying.

eSafety - Social Networking
The Australian government's eSafety website has some good info about managing social networks and online friendships.

How to Be Discerning With Your Facebook Friends
Some tips on how to approach your first friendship cull.

A video from the UK organisation CEOP (Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre) that looks at what can happen when an online friendship isn't what it seems.

Helpful site full of tips on how to stay in control on the web.

eheadspace is a confidential, free and secure space where young people 12 - 25 or their family can chat, email or speak on the phone with a qualified youth mental health professional.

If you or someone you know need someone to talk to, for any reason, about anything, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 - 24 hours a day.

Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
Kids Helpline is a free, 24-hour counselling service for young people aged 5-25 years. Counselling is offered by phone, email and over the web.

An Australian film about a group of high-school friends who post a rumour about a rival and spark a chain reaction that leaves no one untouched. Will these friends avoid being tagged forever?

A Thin Line
A US site that helps you draw the line between digital use and digital abuse.

That's Not Cool
An interactive site from the US that’s all about where you draw your digital line.