The Sociology of Facebook

Just in time for that Sociology of Facebook thesis, paper, article, presentation or blog post you were thinking about starting, comes this post from Inside Facebook on “In-House Sociologist Shares Stats on Users’ Social Behavior."<

Ready to take notes?

Look up the Dunbar's number.  FastFact: It is the “theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.”  The number sociologists seem to accept is about 150. Yes, but Cameron Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, (don't act all surprised that Facebook has research scientists) gave some of his findings about Facebook users’ social behavior patterns.

  • Many people have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but only actively communicate with a few. “Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever,” says Marlow.
  • The average male Facebook user with 120 friends leaves comments on 7 friends’ photos, status updates, or wall messages or chats with 4 friends
  • The average female Facebook user with 120 friends leaves comments on 10 friends’ photos, status updates, or wall messages or chats with 6 friends.
  • The average male Facebook user with 500 friends leaves comments on 17 friends’ photos, status updates, or wall messages or chats with 10 friends.

  • The average female Facebook user with 500 friends leaves comments on 26 friends’ photos, status updates, or wall messages or chats with 16 friends.

That means they are connecting with only about 5-10% of their Facebook friends. The fact that women communicate with more people in all cases than men has been borne out in lots of other non-Facebook studies of social networking.


circles

I don't about your circles of intimacy (see Evolutionary Psychology, Robin Dunbar, Lousie Barrett and John Lycett) but mine are shrinking. It is all "social whirl" and that first circle has you, your family and very close friends (about 5). Next comes the circle is your "sympathy group" of 12-15 people with whom you have a closer relationship.
“People who are members of online social networks are not so much ‘networking’ as they are ‘broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,’” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
This blogger tracks his friend growth starting with his second day on Facebook with 128 friends.
I also discovered that chimpanzees only have a Dunbar number of 50. Can I get some grant money to study chimps who use Facebook?

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