Pew has completed yet another study on the every-interesting creature that is Facebook and guess what – you’re a selfish Facebook user.
Well, that’s not patently true, but the study did find that the average Facebook user “gets more from their friends than they give to their friends.” Wait, wouldn’t the interaction between people on Facebook be reciprocal? How does one person receive more than they give on a site that operates on the premise of sharing?
Turns out that the people termed “power users” are offsetting the balance of the force. From the study:
As a result of these power users, the average Facebook user receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives feedback in terms of “likes” at a higher frequency than they contribute. What’s more, power users tend to specialize. Some 43% of those in our sample were power users in at least one Facebook activity: sending friend requests, pressing the like button, sending private messages, or tagging friends in photos.
There actually aren’t that many “power users” roaming around out there in Facebook – the study identifies only 5% of Facebookers as power users is all of the activities listed above. Still, these “power users” are unrequited juggernauts of Facebook if they’re able to skew the numbers so much that they’re making all of us normal Facebookers look like self-interested goons.
The study also revealed some peculiar demographic facts about Facebook users:
And finally, my favorite:
Concerning the last discovery, Pew did some confusing yet fascinating data-magic and found that the average person has 245 friends, whereas the average friend of a person has 359. They explain:
The vast majority of Facebook users in our sample (84%) have smaller sized networks of friends than their average network size of their Facebook friends. Even the median Facebook user from our sample with a network of 111 friends sees their average friend as having a friends list that is nearly two and a half times larger than their own (2.4 times larger).
How can it be that people’s friends almost always have more friends than they do? This little known phenomenon of friendship networks was first explained by a sociologist Scott Feld [in his research published in American Journal of Sociology, ‘Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do.’]. Not just on Facebook, in general and off of Facebook, people are more likely to be friends with someone who has more friends than with someone who has fewer.
That math still doesn’t make sense to me, either, but take the comfort while you can.
I’m a little disturbed by the fact that unpopularity on Facebook, merely as a measure of how many friends you have and not how well accepted you are – is reflective of Real Life. We really are just simple creatures of habit.
This study is full other interesting revelations, many of which would stand alone as fodder for dissertation-worthy material. In the end, the value (among many) to take from this study is that you apparently shouldn’t feel discouraged when you see that your friends’ friends count is much higher than yours. We’re all not as well friended as our friends so sleep more soundly knowing your popularity on Facebook is a lot like everybody else’s.