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How many friends do you have on Facebook Researchers reveal what the answer could say about your life
Researchers say the 'perfect' number of friends caries between countriesClaim factors including the availability of friends for babysitting or even money lending can impact the number of Facebook friends a person has
21:00 GMT, 17 December 2012
Some people like to have a few close friends on Facebook, while others have hundreds who they barely know.
Researchers now believe that the number of friends you have can depend on how successful you are, and even how often you move.
Researchers from the University of Virginia and the London Business school say the 'perfect' number of friends actually depends on several socioeconomic factors, and varies from country to country.
Researchers believe that the number of Facebook friends you have can reveal you social status, and how often you move home
HOW MANY FRIENDS
Oishi and Kesebir predicted that a
broad, shallow networking strategy would be optimal for people living in
a residentially mobile, economically favorable context.
A narrow, deep networking strategy,
on the other hand, would be optimal if people tend to stay in one place
and economic conditions aren’t as favorable.
Shigehiro Oishi, a psychology professor in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, and Selin Kesebir of the London Business School explored the benefits of social networking strategies in two studies currently published in the journal Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
'In the age of Facebook, many Americans seem to opt for a broad, shallow networking strategy,' they say.
'Yet cross-cultural research has shown that having many friends is not always viewed positively outside the United States.'
One reason that Americans may prefer a large social network, the researchers claim, is because Americans move around a lot.
Another important factor may be the economic conditions at a given time.
'When times are prosperous, your friends are less likely to need much help, whether it’s covering a hospital bill or providing babysitting, and so a broad network of friends is easy to maintain,' they claim.
'But when times aren’t as flush, having more friends might incur huge costs in terms of both time and resources.'
Oishi and Kesebir predicted that a broad, shallow networking strategy would be optimal for people living in a residentially mobile, economically favorable context.
A narrow, deep networking strategy, on the other hand, would be optimal if people tend to stay in one place and economic conditions aren’t as favorable.
In the first study, they created a model that simulated the benefits individuals receive from their social network under various socioeconomic conditions.
The researchers were able to simulate people who have different numbers of friends at different levels of friendship, and they were also able to account for the investment required by each type of friendship.
The team say the 'perfect' number of friends of Facebook depends of several socioeconomic factors – with those who move around a lot likely to have more friends
As they predicted, they found that having a small social network with deep ties to friends is advantageous when friends are not likely to move away and the economy is unstable.
Regardless of economic conditions, having a broad social network with weak ties to friends is advantageous when friends are likely to move away.
Oishi and Kesebir conducted a second study to investigate whether this pattern of results would hold up in the real world.
They recruited 247 Americans to participate in an online survey through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The survey was designed to parallel the computer simulation from the first study.
The participants were asked to list three different kinds of friends: very close, close and distant.
In order to get a sense of the participants’ social networking strategy, the researchers asked them to imagine that their time, energy and money were limited to 60 points and to distribute the points among their three types of friends.
The researchers say social networking strategies can reveal more than expected about people
They also assessed participants’ subjective well-being through a combination of three measures: life satisfaction, experiences of positive emotions and lack of experiences of negative emotions.
Finally, the researchers used census data to obtain information about residential mobility and median family income in each postcode.
The findings from the second study echoed those of the first study.
In postcodes in which residents were stable and had relatively low incomes, participants who had a narrow, deep friendship strategy reported greater well-being than those who had a broad, shallow friendship strategy.
Notably, the broad, shallow strategy was associated with subjective well-being in all three of the other economic conditions (low income-unstable, high income-stable, high income-unstable).
Oishi and Kesebir argue that these two studies provide clear evidence for the role of socioeconomic factors – such as residential mobility and economic security – in determining the most adaptive networking strategy.
'As residential mobility decreases and economic recession deepens in the United States, the optimal social-networking strategy might shift from the broad-but-shallow to the narrow-but-deep, even in a nation known best for the strength of weak ties,' the researchers conclude.