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Despite the way that mobile technologies and social networking sites have made it easier to stay in touch with large numbers of acquaintances, a new study has shown that people still put most of their efforts into communicating with small numbers of close friends or relatives. We often operate unconscious one-in, one-out policies so that communication patterns remain the same even when friendships change.

'Although social communication is now easier than ever, it seems that our capacity for maintaining emotionally close relationships is finite,' said Dr Felix Reed-Tsochas, James Martin Lecturer in Complex Systems at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. 'While this number varies from person to person, what holds true in all cases is that at any point individuals are able to keep up close relationships with only a small number of people, so that new friendships come at the expense of "relegating" existing friends.'

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