Distant friends tend to cast more influence on Facebook

London: Facebook users are most influenced by online friends they are less close to in real life, a new study has found.

According to the new research commissioned by Facebook, users typically have a far larger number of friends on the social network than they are able to see in person regularly. The greater numbers of these distant friends mean that, collectively, they are more influential than a user’s close friends.

Facebook has been eager to demonstrate that social networks do not create an “echo chamber”, where users only come into contact with the opinions of a few like-minded, close friends.

This is particularly important as sharing web links becomes a larger part of the site than posting more personal “status updates”.

“Social networking technologies like Facebook let us connect to hundreds, even thousands of people - and have fundamentally changed how people get their information. We found that even though people are more likely to consume and share information that comes from close contacts that they interact with frequently, the vast majority of information comes from contacts that they interact with infrequently,” the Telegraph quoted Eytan Bakshy of the site’s data science team as writing on the Facebook blog.

The social networking site said that Bakshy’s study is “among the first to rigorously quantify influence at a mass scale.”

“The research also suggests that Facebook isn’t the echo chamber that some might expect – social networks actually encourage the spread of novel information and diverse view points,” Facebook said.

Bakshy added that “distant contacts are also more likely to share novel information, demonstrating that social networks can act as a powerful medium for sharing new ideas, highlighting new products and discussing current events.”

The study concludes that “online social networks can serve as a powerful medium for sharing new perspectives, products, and world events.”


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