The Guardian is reporting that social networking sites do not lead to more genuine, close friends.

This is according to a survey by Dr Will Reader and his team of researchers at Sheffield Hallam Uni, who have looked at how the rise of such sites are changing the nature of friendship networks.

The sites in question are MySpace, Facebook and Bebo - the three big players in this area. Social networking allows people to "collect" hundreds, sometimes even thousands of "acquaintances" but the study has shown that the number of "real world" close friends remains the same.

"Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world", said Will Reader.

The research team surveyed 200 people about their networking activities, their online buddies and how many of these were also "close" friends that they had met face to face.

Although many have hundreds of online contacts the average number of close friends came out as 5, with 90% of these close friends being part of face to face friendships.

"What social network sites can do is decrease the cost of maintaining and forming these social networks because we can post information to multiple people", said Reader.