Your Facebook friends have more friends than you: survey

Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:51 AM ET

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Are you a power user on Facebook or an average one? A new study finds that between 20 and 30 percent of the social networking site's users are "power" users — they send more friend requests, hit the "like" button more often, send more private messages and tag more friends in photos.

Those power users' activities, with their hives of digital activity benefit the "average" Facebook user, says the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in a new report, "Why most Facebook users get more than they give."

"The average Facebook user gets more from their friends on Facebook than they give to their friends. Why? Because of a segment of 'power users,' who specialize in different Facebook activities and contribute much more than the typical user does," Pew said.

Another "surprising" finding, Pew said: "Your friends on Facebook have more friends than you do." (Gee, thanks.)

"The average person in our sample had 245 Facebook friends. However, the average friend of users in the sample had 359 Facebook friends of their own. This finding was nearly universal for people with lots of friends and people with a relatively modest number. Only the top 10 percent of users with the largest friends lists have friends who on average had smaller networks than their own."

The report is based on both a national phone survey of 2,255 American adults done last November and the tracking of 269 Facebook users who agreed to let Facebook release server logs about their activities for a month to Pew.

Among Pew's findings:

  • The "typical Facebook user" in Pew's sample was "moderately active over our month of observation, in their tendency to send friend requests, add content, and 'like' the content of their friends." But the power users did "these same activities at a much higher rate; daily or more than weekly."
  • Because of 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."
  • Facebook networks are "sparsely interconnected," Pew said: "A friend of a friend is usually a friend too, but on average only 12 percent of all possible connections between Facebook friends were present." In other words: "Most Facebook friends are not directly connected to each other."

But making new Facebook friends is associated with "higher levels of social support, while those who make frequent status updates receive more emotional support," Pew said.

Whether you're a power user, or an average one, here's more stats from the study that may make you feel in the know — or insecure, depending on your own level of activity on Facebook:

  • "On average users make 7 new Facebook friends per month; they initiated 3 requests and accepted 4."
  • 80 percent of friend requests that are made are accepted.
  • "Women average 11 updates to their Facebook status per month while men average 6."
  • "On average Facebook users contribute about four comments/likes for every status update that they make."
  • Less than 5 percent of users "hid content from another user on their Facebook feed."

Pew said there's "no evidence of 'Facebook fatigue' among users who have been using the site a long time. The more Facebook friends users have, the more they perform every activity that we explored: Friending, liking, private messages, commenting, posting, photo tagging, joining groups, and poking."

Whether you poke, like or tag, what it comes down to is that this kind of interaction can make you feel more connected, both in the virtual and real worlds, Pew says.

"This examination of people's activities in a very new realm affirms one of the oldest truths about the value of friendship: Those who are really active socially have a better shot at getting the help and emotional support they need," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project.

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