Adam Hartley at the MSN says that having thousands of Facebook friends don’t reflect on the friendship in the traditional sense because our capacity to have friends is limited.
Mr. Hartley who calls Facebook friend acquisition as “Friend Farming” writes,
According to evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, 150 is the largest number of people that you can share trust and obligations with, explains psychologist Dr Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus.
That magic number of 150 friends is thought to be a cognitive limit to the number of friends we can maintain, the psychologist adds. "While people can boast hundreds and thousands of friends on Facebook, Dunbar would say that it is impossible to feed and nourish all of these relationships."
So having friends in excess of the Dunbar 150 suggests that social networking has hardly been about friends but about something more.
Mr. Hartley adds, (bold highlights mine)
Recent academic research suggests there are four primary motivations for going on social networking - social (meeting friends, having an online community); information (finding jobs and useful knowledge); entertainment (FarmVille!) and self-status seeking. It is this latter urge that drives friend farming.
Well different people have different incentives to join Facebook or other social networks.
To my account, some of my non-traditional friends, who shares the same ideas, ideals, values or philosophy as I, have been a fountain of informational wealth. In short, I learn alot from them and I am very appreciative of that.
Of course shared interest also means an online community, which is what I have been saying all along as the vertical flow of communication and knowledge dispersion. People with shared interest can exchange ideas directly which results to increased knowledge. Local knowledge is now globalized through Facebook and Twitter. Our personal interests are channeled by niches or by specialization. We form tribes despite the geographical distance.
And there are others whom I also gladly got to know through online games.
And importantly, they connect me real time to my family wherever they are.
While it may true for some or for many where adding or farming friends could be a form of status signalling, I find the zeitgeist of social network sites as expanding the human experience.
And it is why social networking will change the way we live.