Facebook remains by far the most popular social media site in India. In a country where 34.8% of its population are internet users, FB has over 11.83 % (142 million) users in India, of which about 5.7% (69 million) people in India use FB daily. Of the FB users in India, nearly 75.6% are male and 50% are believed to belong to the age group 18-24 years. Therefore, one is safe to assume that the predominant FB user in India is a male under the age of 25. FB has emerged for many young Indians a “one-stop shop” for news, entertainment, communication, and making friends.
In real life one has on average 5 intimate friends, 15 best friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, 500 acquaintances and 1,500 people one recognises on sight. Yet, it is common for the young FB users in India to have 100s of FB friends now-a-days – it is fast becoming a popularity statement, I dare say. In their bid to have their finger in the popularity pie, young Indians often are adding everyone they met in school or workplace or online and chances are that they have many strangers in their friend´s list whom they hardly know !. Some of them may be there just to watch them – in real life, that would be considered creepy !. But the larger question about these friends, are these FB friends really one´s friends ? Are they genuine people ? Can one really manage 1000s of friends and does one really need them ?.
The truth is, nobody is watching us on FB and none can see us and therefore whether we accept it or not, many people live their fantasies on FB. Anyone can create a fake profile with a fake picture and pretend to be whoever he/she wants. That is the ugly side of FB, you can never be certain about FB “friends” you have never met in real life. Facebook estimates that between 5.5-11.2% of accounts are either duplicated or fake !. The most recent FB Scam in India has been a Madhu Shah. More than 30 separate profiles exist for Madhu Shah, who is not believed to be a real person, all with a profile picture featuring the same woman !!!
However, what we also tend to overlook in this popularity spree is that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships . For social media platforms such as FB, it has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150 and is commonly called the “Dunbar number”. These are the number of relationships up to which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person in the group . The 150-250 limit is therefore an important one – this defines the people you have real reciprocated relationships with, those where you feel obligations and would willingly do favours.
Every third person in Indian city today is a youth and in about 4 years, the median individual in India will be 29 years, very likely a city-dweller, making it the youngest country in the world with a more than significant percentage of FB users. Time our youth asked themselves – “how well do I really know my friends” ?.