Latest research from Pew Research
finds that the majority of Facebook users get more from their Facebook friends than they give.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a nationally representative phone survey of 877 people the aims being to investigate the social and civic lives of social networking sites (SNS) users.
The results of this study were published in June 2011 in a report entitled “Social networking sites and our lives.”
Out of 877 original respondents who were Facebook users, 269 identified in and recruited from this random, representative telephone survey, allowed Pew to access data on their use of Facebook in order to match it with their survey responses.
In addition, Pew joined with Facebook and matched individual responses from the survey with profile information and computer logs that revealed how those same people used Facebook services over a one-month period in November 2010.
As reported from Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet Project, some of the main results of this special analysis are:
1. 40% of Facebook users made a friend request, but 63% received at least one request
2. Users pressed the like button next to friends’ content an average of 14 times, but had their content “liked” an average of 20 times
3. Users sent 9 personal messages, but received 12
4. 12% of users tagged a friend in a photo, but 35% were themselves tagged in a photo
In other words, the results show that the 269 facebook users in the sample seem less active and willing to reciprocate Facebook activities than their facebook friends.
In order to clarify these unusual findings and other results of the survey, Digital Journal contacted the director of the project Lee Rainie.
Regarding: “Most Facebook users receive more from their Facebook friends than they give.”
How is it that the members of your sample have turned out to be the ‘takers’ rather than the ‘givers’? Someone must be giving somewhere. What part of the demographic profile of those who agreed to take part would identify these 269 responders as being ‘receivers' or 'takers’ rather than being 'sharers' and 'givers'?
We have explained this by describing the special role of power users – the 20%-30% of Facebook users who are very very active and give more to the rest in comments, tags, friendship requests, and messages. Average users are not very active, so these power users who are giving more than they get in all those activities end up giving the majority of users more than they get back. The majority sort of benefits from the power users. As we say in the report: Thanks to these power users, the average Facebook user receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives feedback in terms of “likes” at a higher frequency than they contribute.
Regarding: “Your friends on Facebook have more friends than you do.”
In reaction to the above comment, I repeat the same question as above.
This actually mirrors a long-standing sociological observation about people’s friendship networks (predating Facebook and other social networking sites). Sociologist Scott Feld first published on it in 1991. He noted that people tend to gravitate to others who are more popular and plugged in. In Facebook that means the average person has 245 Facebook friends and each of those friends has an average of 359 Facebook friends. The only exceptions in our data are the 10% of people with the very biggest networks of friends. Their friends have smaller networks than they. But, again, these “power users” or “power frienders” do so much friending that the average user sees the opposite: their friends have more friends than they do.
Regarding: “Facebook networks are sparsely interconnected.”
Did you find this finding surprising?
Facebook and other social networking sites make it much easier these days to find and become friends with the friends of your friends. This increases the chance that in a user’s network fewer people will know each other. The networked age has expanded the size of people’s social networks and increased the chance that people in a network don’t know each other. Think about your own life. Your professional friends and contacts aren’t too terribly likely to know your neighborhood friends, or your church friends, or your sports-league friends, or your friends from school. That’s what we’re seeing here: Networks, especially inside social networking sites, are more sparse than they used to be.
Regarding: "Making new Facebook friends associated with higher levels of social support, while those who make frequent status updates receive more emotional support."
What are your reactions to this result?
To me, this says there is a version of the Golden Rule that plays out in the social networking world. The more people give, the more they get back. It makes sense that if you have more friends, even the kind of acquaintances you can gather on Facebook, you have a greater chance of getting help when you express your needs or ask for assistance or need a hug.
Regarding: “Personal messages on Facebook are generally not replacing email.”
Any thoughts as to why this might be?
This really lines up with other data we’ve collected over the years. Email has always been the number one activity we see on the internet in terms of the number of people who do it on any given day. It has not diminished in the age of social networking sites. Virtually all Facebook users were email users before they got on Facebook, so they are used to emailing their friends and acquaintances. Plus, private messaging on Facebook depends on your correspondent being a Facebook user. Since less than 50% of adults are Facebook users and more than 90% of adults are email users, the reach of email is greater than Facebook.
View the full February 3, 2012, report of the research and findings by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project here: "Why most Facebook users get more than they give. The effect of Facebook ‘power users’ on everybody else."