How many of your Facebook “friends” are really your friends? For a long time, I have been curious to what friends on Facebook really means and it’s something that people don’t usually think about while going on Facebook. Going through every single person on my friends list was definitely a time consuming task, but it taught me a lot about how we use social media as a society. From what I can remember from middle school going a little into high school, the notion that having a large friends list made you seem “more popular”. For that reason, I had 1,028 friends, and from there, I conducted my experiment. Initially I did not think that many of my friends would be people I did not know based on what I see everyday on my timeline. Also, no one was harmed, because I conducted the experiment with my own account and only asked people I knew about their own friends as well.
I put each of my Facebook friends into a category: friends I have never talked to or met, friends I’ve spoken to at least once (or haven’t spoken to in a few years), and friends that I am close with (or have had at least 5 or more conversations with). My results were as follows: 319 friends I’ve never talked to or met, 499 friends I’ve spoken to at least once, and 210 friends I am close with. I then went through 5 random friends that I have never met or spoken to and looked through their timelines. After doing that, I looked through my own timeline, and found not one of their recent posts. For a little more data, I asked a few other people on what they have noticed about their Facebook friends. Ideally I would have liked to sit down with them and have them look through their friends list and write down their data, but that was not possible due to time constraints. First I asked my mother because I wanted a variety of age groups. She has 84 friends, all of whom are people that are family or those she is close with. I asked my one of my good friends who is female. She has 484 friends, but she told me that a few months ago she had around 2,000. She realized that most of those on her friends list were not her actual friends, and went through and deleted many. Then I asked one of my male friends, and he has around 1,200 friends. He says that even if he isn’t close with someone, he likes to keep them as friends for networking and other purposes.
You can also sort through your friends by different categories such as work, college, hometown, high school, etc. Facebook tries to make your connections easier.
By analyzing my own Facebook friends, I found that I accepted anyone that friend requested me, without caring if I knew them or not. By asking a few of the people that I know about their Facebook friends, I learned even more about social media. Through my mother, I can tell that adults are more cautious about who they let see their online lives. Through my female friend, I can see that she too had many friends for the wrong reasons. Through my male friend, I understand how having a lot of Facebook friends can also be beneficial. Because of this project, I actually decided to delete the friends that I have never met or spoken to, but keep ones that I have only spoken to maybe once. I did this because you never know when you might need to speak to that person again. Also, many of us use social media as a distraction, and it is always interesting to quote on quote “stalk” people on Facebook. It isn’t about having the most amount of friends anymore, but it definitely keeps connections available if you have an abundant amount. Largely, we don’t use media for actual friendships, but to see what is happening in other people’s lives without having to personally talk to them.
By looking at the timelines of a few friends that I had never met, I also learned a few things about Facebook itself. None of their recent posts even came up on my timeline. It seems that the algorithms that Facebook has in place, keep my most clicked on friends a part of my timeline. The pages I visit on a daily basis are what stays on my timeline. Although, the majority of my timeline is pictures and different ads or news stories about how Taylor Swift finally showed her belly button. About 10% of my timeline on any specific day are of statuses, but I also think that can be explained by how people mostly use Facebook now. Facebook is used to update families with new pictures, link to other accounts or apps, networking, and group events. Twitter is one of the places where you can find most people actually writing out their “feelings”.
Ads like this one (sponsored by Verizon), are a large part of my timeline.
As well as different stories about pop culture based on different pages I have liked.
Something that really caught my attention while gathering my results was Facebook’s new “Introducing Close Friends” option. It is as if Facebook knows that many people have a lot of friends, most of which are not close ones. They now allow you to star your closest friends, so that you see them more on your timeline. Facebook also warns you from time to time to only friend people that you actually know, because social media can be dangerous. That is why I took the time to delete those friends I had never even heard of.
So what is Facebook for? Everyone has a different use for it, and it changes all of the time. In terms of friendship, there are people who we are very close with, but many Facebook friends are people who we have only met once. It helps with networking and keeping connections throughout the years. The way Facebook is used tells us that we use media as a way to gain knowledge about other people, without having to actually speak to them. We can be friends on Facebook, but not say a word to each other in real life. Facebook lets us hide behind our computer screens and avoid conversations in person because everything you need to know is online. It definitely tells us a lot about how media has changed social relationships between people. I think this is also the same for other social media sites, such as Instagram or Twitter. Social media in general allows you to know more people without personally knowing them. In some ways having many Facebook friends can be positive, but also it can take away from real world interactions.