Insights For Success

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I have more Facebook friends than you

technologyEdward Kiledjian1 Comment

The most common Facebook question people ask is 

  • how many friends does the typical Facebook user have?
  • is 6 degrees of separation real 

The latest statistics I was able to find where published in November 2011 and provides some interesting insight I wanted to share with my community.

I have friends

Examining the 721 million active Facebook users (on November 2011), they had built 69 billion friendship relationships amongst them. Beyond the amazing numbers, the researchers discovered that users are actually much closer to each other than the “6 degrees of separation” and that gap is shrinking as the social network grows larger. They also discovered that most your friends are likely close to your age and from the same geographic area.

50% of Facebook users have over 100 friends and the average friend count is 190. A 1991 paper called “Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do” described an interesting paradox validated by the Facebook data. Even though the median friend count is 100, 84% of users have a higher friend count than that. But how can that be? If you take a New York to LA flight, you may say that is it always more full than your other flights. Or your favorite restaurant always seems to have longer wait times and is always more full than others. This is because these (flight, restaurant and friends) must have more people choosing them if they are more popular. This is why it is completely normal if your friends are more popular and have more digital friends than you.

6 degrees of separation

This term was created in a short story in 1929 by Frigyes Katinthy then used as a movie plot. In 1960, Stanley Milgram decided to test out this theory by asking 296 volunteers to deliver a message to a stockholder living in Massachusetts. The only condition was that they could not send the message directly unless they personally knew this individual.  The result was that most people could get the message use 5.2 intermediaries (which translated into 6 hops).

The University of Milano studied this phenomenon on Facebook and found that 99.6% users are connected within 5 degrees but 92% are connected with only 4 degrees. As Facebook grows and the inter-friend network of relationships becomes denser, it is expected that this will shrink dramatically. In 2008, any 2 users were 5.28 hops from each other while in 2011 they are only 4.74. The gap is closing. This is also the premise behind business oriented sites like Linkedin.