Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Social Networks And Desirability!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note: Number of exclamation points is directly correlated to the interestingness of the blog post.

So I've wondered for a long time what the optimal number of friends to have on a social network (I'll be focusing on Facebook) is. It's important, of course, to have enough friends to exude popularity (or at least the fact that yes, you do have friends), but on the other hand, you don't want to be seen as one of those people that not only accepts all the friend requests you receive (regardless of your relationship with the sender) but (heaven forbid!) you friend request people that aren't actually your friend!

So today, when I should have been outlining my English paper, I began an exhaustive study on this very subject.

I began research with a thoroughly scientific mass-text survey (If you were a recipient, I apologize and thank you for your reply if you did indeed give me one, if you weren't, don't take it personally; I just like you less). I do realize that this limits responses primarily to high-school age white kids, I've tried to accrue sufficient data to come up with at least a ballpark estimate. And while I would like to have thousands of data points, covering people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs, I simply don't have the money. I also don't actually care that much.

I've also collected a fair amount of data off of my facebook friends. Again, that's limiting, but deal with it, or get the hell off of my blog.

So my first question is about the number of friends people have, as it relates to their age. I figured it'd be a sort of a bell curve, a bit like this:

Sorry for the blur.
But I figured that the friend number (y-axis) would peak at about age 19, the tech-savvy generation who has also seen high school and college.

Using the meager data of younger people (freshman and below) and older people (30 and above), my averages are:
Younger people -- 117 friends
Older people -- 122 friends
Regular people (those surveyed) -- 292 friends

Success!

So now we move on to the much more difficult question of the socially optimal number of friends to have. We're going to be looking mostly at the category 'Regular People' for this one, so assume that it's nearly all 17-20 year-old folk. My original hypothesis was that there would be a correlation between friends and predicted number for social optimization. It makes sense, doesn't it? One would think that people would want to believe themselves to be the norm. So of the people I surveyed, I also checked their own number of facebook friends. Here are the results:


So, as you can probably see, there's not a really strong correlation. Hell, there's not really a correlation at all.

THE BOTTOM LINE
  • According to averaging copious data on opinions, the most social optimal number of friends to have on a social network is 165
  • The average number of friends is 292
  • Thus, most people find themselves not socially optimal
  • I have WAAAAY too much time on my hands

2 comments:

Alex said...

I think Facebook/Myspace/etc. should implement a policy that before you can friend request someone, you need to give a personal anecdote about him or her. It would totally cut down on friend whoring.

Madeline said...

Is it possible for you to tell me exactly which data point I am?