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Who Are My “Actual” Facebook Friends?

I recently stumbled across an academic article that talked about social capital in relationships on Facebook and its impact strong and weak ties between “friends.” The authors were able to do this by categorizing someone’s “actual” friends and total friends on Facebook. They predicted that somebody’s “actual” friends, or Facebook friends in which the user has a stronger offline connection with, were a stronger predictor of that individual’s social capital and tie strength associated with there actual and non-actual friends on Facebook. I found it interesting how Facebook actually has an algorithm that tries into increase the ties between one’s actual friends by promoting more content and information on peoples’ newsfeeds with those who you interact with the most on Facebook. At the same time, this is also demoting content from non-actual Facebook friends, which actually decreases the strength of these already weak ties.

Our textbook describes a similar scenario, where a graph provides a visual of the strength of ties between an individual and his or her friends on Facebook. You can clearly see the isolation between strong (actual) friends and weak (non-actual) friends. This situation provided in the illustration can actually relate to most college students. As you can see, there is a very clear distinction between close friend groups and friends that are fairly distant (a majority of their Facebook friends). There is observable triadic closure within this individual’s Facebook network, which can most likely be explained by the notion that this person has two main groups of friends (we can call them high school and college friends). It would be interesting to see the effect of local bridges on these two separate groups of friends.

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Networks, Crowds, and Markets by Easley and Kleinberg


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