Networking masks fact that most people have just handful of true friends

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Most people believe they have five or fewer friends they can count on in a crisis, despite having hundreds listed on social networking sites, new research has claimed.

Nearly two-thirds felt they had a core group of five friends or fewer, while almost half (42 per cent) said they considered just one in 10 of their friends on websites such as Facebook to be true pals, a survey of 2,045 internet users found.

Six out of 10 said fewer than a fifth of their online friends would be called on for advice or support in hard times.

The YouGov research was commissioned by jewellery chain Links of London, which is launching its “Circle of 5” campaign to encourage people to reward their closest mates.

Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey, who is backing the campaign, said: “Every successful person needs people behind them to drive them. I don’t know where I’d be without my friends, husband, trainers and parents.

“They push me to go that little bit further, inspire me and help me escape from it all when I need to.”

Psychologist Rob Yeung said: “Many of us like to think that our own success is based on how we perform, but without valuable people in our lives – core people around us who support us – we may not achieve as much as we aspire to.”