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Your Friends Have Even More Friends

A recent study using Facebook examines and calculates the average number of one’s friends of friends and concludes that one’s friends have more friends than the given individual. It’s an interesting and surprising phenomenon that most people would probably never think about on the daily basis. To calculate what they call the “friendship phenomenon”, or the average number of friend’s friends, the researchers used statistics from a downsized social network and the number of friends each person or node was connected to. Weighted averages were often skewed and inaccurately represented the social network because some people contribute more to the average, based on how many friendship ties they have. Like the example that was provided, one girl who was considered the “social butterfly” was tied to three others, while another girl was only connected to one. More in depth uses of this “friendship phenomenon” was applied to other situations in which numerical patterns could be analyzed; this included average number of people in an airport or average number of students in a class.

This numerical analysis of a social network relates to some of the basic, rudimentary topics in the class Econ 2040 Networks such as graphs, nodes, edges, strong ties, weak ties, and triadic closures. If one were to map out all of the people and relationships of Facebook onto a sheet of paper, it would be an extensive graph involving millions of nodes and edges, some edges representing strong friendships and others weak. As described above, some people are able to contribute more to a social network than others; this results in more opportunities for triadic closures. For example, the “social butterfly” of a graph is presumably connected to multiple friendships, and this increases the chance of the friends of the social butterfly to eventually be connected. The more triadic closures exist, the friendship numbers increase exponentially resulting in the researched phenomenon results.







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