Facebook Friends Cluster By Age, Location

November 30, 2011

facebook-age-clusters.jpgFacebook users tend to have friends of about the same age, a pattern that holds true even for users aged 60, for whom the distribution of their friends’ ages sharply peaks at exactly 60, according to a study from the Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Universit? degli Studi di Milano. Data from the study indicates that Facebook friends are also very locally clustered, with 84% of all connections being between users in the same country.

According to the research, the median friend count on Facebook is 100, while the average friend count is 190.

Facebook Makes the World Smaller

facebook-degrees-separation.jpgFacebook appears to one-up the popular “6 Degrees of Separation” theory: according to the studies conducted by the Laboratory for Web Algorithmics, 99.6% of all pairs of Facebook users are connected by paths with 5 degrees (6 hops), while 92% are connected by only 4 degrees (5 hops). Additionally, as Facebook has grown, it has become steadily more connected: while the average distance between two users in 2008 was 5.28 hops, it now stands at 4.74. When limiting the analysis to a single country, most pairs of people are only separated by 3 degrees (4 hops).

2 in 3 Use Social Media to Stay in Touch

pew-social-media-use.jpgMeanwhile, roughly two-thirds of American social media users say that staying in touch with current friends and family members is a major reason they use these sites, while half say that connecting with old friends they have lost touch with is a major motivator, according to [pdf] a survey released in November by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data from “Why Americans Use Social Networks” indicates that female social media users are more likely than male users to cite family connections as a major reason for using these sites.

Only 14% of users say that connecting with others with shared hobbies or interests is a major reason for their social media use, while just 9% cite making new friends as a major motivator.

Connecting With Public Figures Appeals to African Americans, Latinos, and Twitter Users

Among social media users as a whole, the ability to read comments by public figures such as politicians, celebrities or athletes is relatively unimportant – three-quarters of users say that this plays no role in their decision to use these sites. Yet both African Americans and Latinos show more interest in this activity than white users: 1 in 10 black social media users and 11% of Latinos say that reading comments from public figures is a major reason for using these sites (compared with just 3% of white users). Black and Latino social media users are also more likely to say that this is a minor factor (31% and 26% respectively, compared to 16% of whites).

Additionally, 11% of Twitter users say that reading comments by politicians, celebrities or athletes is a major reason they use online social networks, and 30% say that this is a minor reason for their usage of these sites.

About the Data: The Laboratory for Web Algorithmics research was performed in 2011 and examined all 721 million active Facebook users with 69 billion friendships among them. The Pew survey was conducted April 26 – May 22, 2011 among 2,277 adults ages 18 and older, including 755 cell phone interviews. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The term “social media users” refers to individuals who use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn and/or use Twitter.

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