I recently read an article that took a look at the inner workings of facebook data. A new service began trying to incorporate science in the data they were able to retrieve from individual’s facebook profiles and to establish commonalities that could suggest certain patterns of communication in society. The first thing the article talked about was this study trying to exactly establish just how large a social media like facebook is. What exactly did that mean to its users? They found that the median of all facebook users is 342. In simple terms, each user on facebook had on average, connections with 342 “online users” within the facebook network. I found that data to be interesting. One, if you ask yourself if you have 342 “real” (or non-virtual) friends and the answer is yes, I’d say you are way too busy. The idea of having 342 friends to socialize and hang out with seems like a nightmare. But what we have to remember is this new idea of social media represents a shift in the ways we are interacting and “hanging out” with the people in our lives.
For me, maybe 6 or 7 solid relationships (outside of a social network) seems to be a good number. My sister on the other hand has over 45 friends (that I can count) that she coordinates times/events to hang out with each group of them throughout the week/months. But not 345, nowhere close actually.
Recently I blogged about the idea of the Dunbar Number, being representative of the maximum amount of network connections that any one user can actually be actively and interactively engage in a reasonable period of time. While facebook allows users to connect with 5,000 different other users (and then there is a cut off) I don’t necessarily see the need (or desire) to do so other than a business trying to get the word out. But this is becoming an ancillary service of Facebook. It hopes to rival professional networking sites like Linkedin and Twitter for the business market, but it struggles to gain its footing in this sector.
What was interesting about the study as well as that the more people they “counted” towards this study the more they realized that the majority of facebook users did not have many friends at all.
Predictably teenagers had the highest numbers of friends on facebook, then following in close second was college-aged young adults. This age group represents the undeniable epicenter of social media in general. They have basically been introduced to social media at just the right age to where self expression is the name of the game. The more they can self promote, feel “part of the group” identify with like-minded people, and refute opposition, the more they are successfully aiding in their “teenager” duties. I did this as a teenager, but we did not have facebook when I was high school. We actually hung out, but they sentiment and my actions could arguably be the same. I wanted to impress, self promote and I always felt like I was missing out on things if I didn’t do what they others were doing. I think this same idea fuels the teenage users of facebook. This study also took a look of the details of the conversation each age group was having throughout the course of their “social media lives” and I would have to say that not-surprisingly, those conversations also mirrored those from a time before facebook and social media. The conversations as users got older using social media went from video games and drinking parties, to politics and history. This same social construct was evident long before facebook. Maybe, in a way, although we are greatly affected by social media, that the results on certain behaviors are not as potent. Yes, I feel we “do less”. I mean let’s be honest. Sitting in front of a computer and updating your facebook pictures and commenting on others means one thing: you are sitting in front of your computer and not actually outside engaging with others. But, now with smart phones and very portable and easy to use tablets, we are able to mobile with our social media, and I feel this advance in technology will aid in the reformulation of social agendas outside of our bedrooms.