The Facebook paradox | Bleader

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Facebook paradox

Posted By on 02.03.12 at 10:54 AM

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The Pew Research Center has put its finger on a Facebook paradox.

Some 20 to 30 percent of Facebook users are "power users," according to a study by the Pew's Internet & American Life Project, done in collaboration with Facebook. This is the minority that partakes of at least one Facebook activity at a "much higher rate" than the rest of us. (About 5 percent do everything you can do on Facebook at a much higher rate.)

The result, says "Why most Facebook users get more than they give," which was released Friday, is the oddity expressed in the report's title. "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."

For example, "Your friends on Facebook have more friends than you do." The study followed 269 Facebook users (with their permission) for a month. These users averaged 245 Facebook friends apiece. But the average friend of the 269 users had 359 friends.

The average user received 4.20 friend requests during the month and accepted 3.59. But he or she sent only 3.96 friend requests and 3.16 were accepted.

Beware of these averages. Because of power users, they're deceptive. Most of the users in the sample didn't send any friend requests at all. "About 40% of our sample of Facebook users made a friend request in the month of our observation, but 63% of users received a friend request. While most users did not initiate a friend request, and most received only one, 19% of users—what we are calling power users—initiated requests at least once a week."

The average user liked a friend's content 14.48 times during the month. His or her own content was liked 20.08 times.

And so forth. Another interesting finding is that a user's Facebook friends tend not to be each other's friends. If a user's 245 friends all were each other's friends too, 29,890 Facebook friendships would have been established. The Pew study found on average just 12% of that many. This percentage is called "network density," and it's only a third of the density of the friendships that exist among an average person's offline—or real world—friends (according to previous studies).

The Pew study guesses why this is so. "We suspect that Facebook networks are of lower density because of their ability to allow ties that might otherwise have gone dormant to remain persistent over time." I would qualify that. Facebook also allows distant ties that did go dormant to be resurrected and to persist at an easily sustainable level. Friends from the distant past aren't going to know the ones you have today.

Here's a link to the full Pew report.

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