Friends forever or best of strangers?

Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012

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Is a friend really a friend if you've never actually met them, and rarely, if ever, speak to them?

According to a survey on Kiwis' social media use, the average number of Facebook friends is 146, but 41 per cent of users admitted to having "friends" they had never met, and two-thirds said they were friends with people they had not seen since leaving school.

The UMR Research survey of 1000 people aged 18 or over found Facebook was used by 76 per cent of respondents, making it almost three times as popular as any other social media site.

About 54 per cent of New Zealanders - 2 million people - use Facebook, according to global web-tracking company SocialBakers, which is a similar percentage to the US, Britain and Australia.

Hutt Valley runner Victoria Taylor, 19, has a whopping 2559 friends on Facebook, and insists: "I pretty much know all of them. It's good for keeping in touch with people, and when I did [a recent cross-country charity run] it was good to keep people up to date."

She has been online since April 2009 and said many of her friends were from school. "I don't accept just anyone."

Phil Reed, who works in the mayor's office at Wellington City Council, has 757 friends, and says he knows all but a few of those.

"The number has sort of stayed around there. I have plateaued."

Facebook was a way of keeping in touch with people, he said - and those he did not talk to often would gradually be filtered away from his news feed.

Just 20 per cent of those surveyed said they were not signed up to any networking sites, down from 29 per cent last year.

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- The Dominion Post

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