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One In, One Out: Oxford Study Shows People Limit Social Networks

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A social network diagram.

Social media users tend to focus their communications on small numbers of contacts.

Credit: Daniel Tenerife/Wikipedia

People who use social media tend to communicate primarily with small numbers of close friends or relatives, even though mobile devices and social networking sites make it easier to reach large numbers of acquaintances, according to a study from the University of Oxford.

Researchers monitored the mobile phone data of students in the United Kingdom over 18 months as they made the transition from school to university or work. The researchers found that participants continued to make the same number of calls to people based on emotional closeness, even though the number of people in their social network changed over time.

Oxford professor Robin Dunbar notes that participants replaced some members of their networks or made fewer calls to them as they added new people. Fellow researcher Felix Reed-Tsochas says people humans can only maintain emotionally close relationships with a finite number of people. "It seems that individuals' patterns of communication are so prescribed that even the efficiencies provided by some forms of digital communication are insufficient to alter them," Dunbar says.

From University of Oxford
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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