Are you really friends — or did you just convince yourself you are?
The finding is surprising because adding someone to your friend list is a low-cost, quick and effortless gesture and might not necessarily be seen as a meaningful start to a relationship. Unlike buying someone you just met a cup of coffee, adding someone to your friend list has little intrinsic value.
But we did expect this to happen because human beings have a natural predilection for cognitive consistency. We tend to adjust our attitudes and beliefs to be in line with our behaviour. So if you’re honest and you just labelled Jordan as a friend, you must think favourably of Jordan. If you don’t, then either you’ve been dishonest with Jordan or you have friends you don’t really like.
Benjamin Franklin first identified this trait of human psychology. Being nice to someone makes us like them more and being mean to someone makes us like them less. We found that same trait of human psychology extends to small gestures in an online context.
It almost goes without saying but, the above psychology alone may be responsible for a large part of how utterly detached from reality most people’s friend lists actually are — as well as why we like it that way…