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If you have no friends, blame your parents

An Article from Psychology today entitled “What’s the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends?? attempts to try and figure out what is the perfect number of Facebook friends, after all according to them having too many or too little can be a bad thing. What struck me most from the article was the idea that you might not even have any control of how many friends you have. It could all be genetic.

At first I was a little skeptical. I currently, as of February 11th have 492 Facebook friends, and my younger brother by only two years has only 165, and of those we only had 42 mutual friends. On average siblings’ genetic makeup is about 50 percent the same. So am I missing something here?

A study done at Harvard and the University of California in November of 2008 proved me wrong. They looked at the fact that some people had a lot of friends and others had very few, and at the same time, some people were in smaller groups of friends where everyone knew each other, and other people belonged to groups of friend where there was very little overlap between friendships. They found using a twin study that the likeliness of someone to be named a friend, and the likeliness that the friends know each other are related. But the amount of people that someone named as a friend were not related. They also found that the centrality within a group was also genetic.

One possible reason for this was explained by the “Attract and introduce model.? Basically they stated that some people are naturally more attractive than others, whether it be physical attraction or other qualities. This is something that has been long proved to be genetic. The second half of this model is the fact that some people are more inclined to introduce their friends to each other. So basically our genetics can be to blame for both our direct and indirect relationships.

There is also the idea that our behavior is what influences the amount of friends that we have. I always thought this Idea to be more plausible. After all how you act influences how many people are drawn to you. Unfortunately, other studies have been done that state that your behavior is also genetic. Alexandra Burt at Michigan State University said that “your genes are to some extent driving your social behavior.? They looked into the correlation between a gene and particular behaviors and social experiences. Burt collected DNA samples from over 200 male college students. After interacting in a lab setting for an hour the most popular students ended up being the ones with a serotonin gene associated with rule breaking behavior. So basically the people who were the rule breakers were found to be more popular.

According to research done in Computer-Mediated Communication after asking students to rate the attractiveness of someone’s Facebook profile, the most attractive profiles had an average of 300 friends. But does that really answer the question, what is the optimal number of friends? After analyzing all of the studies and research done, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter, because there is nothing we can do to control the amount of friends that we have. We are either genetically blessed with the ability to make friends and introduce them, or we are born with the gifts to attract friends with our looks or behavior. In the end, there is nothing we can do to control the amount of friends we have. All we can do is trust our genes. Maybe my brother is adopted.


The amount friends does not prove how “cool? a person is or if a person is a loser. If a person is very social, he or she will have more friends than a person who is less social. When we think of socializing, we usually never go in-depth like linking the number of friends to the person’s genes. Between you and your younger brother, you say that you have 492 friends while he has only 165 friends. That is a big gap between those amounts especially for being only two years apart. Maybe your younger brother is the quiet one and you are the talkative one in your family or maybe you are the type of person who wants to add everyone that knows your friends and your younger brother would just prefer to have friends that he actually knows. That could be the cause of the number friends that you have. My younger brother is two years younger too and he does have fewer friends (not on Facebook, but the number of friends that he actually knows) than me. I do admit that I am the talkative one out of the family and he is the quiet one but we both just like to keep our friends list as what the definition of friend is suppose to be, “A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.? I don’t know you at all but I am guessing that out of those 492 friends that you have on Facebook, I would guess that your friends list would drop down to about 200-250 friends that you actually know when using the definition of “friends.? With that lowered number, it would shrink the gap between your number and your younger brother's number of friends.

I totally agree with you on this topic. There really is no optimal number for friends to have on facebook and how attractive you are has nothing to do with your friend count.. As of right now I have 237 friends on facebook, my sister, who people say I look a lot a like, has more than 100 less at 131. Personally, I think that my sister is more attractive than me, so then why so few friends? If how attractive you are has to do with how many friends you have, then shouldn’t she have more?
Personally, I think that it has more to do with how old you are when you get a facebook account. My sister was twenty-two when she got her account where as I seventeen. She was off at college and I was still in high school. Think about it, when you go to college, the only people that you want to stay in touch with are your really close friends, not the random people that you only knew from a class or two. These are the people that facebook was made for, college students.
I noticed that if you joined while you were still in high school that the friend count started to get higher and higher. The reason for this is that, if you joined in junior high, you just don’t know enough people, and as I stated before, if you joined while in college, you only befriended your closest friends. But, in high school, everything changes. You know way more people; I knew at least three-fourths of my 738 graduating class. I befriended a lot of my friends just because we shared a class or two, it was extra help.
So, from what I can tell, attractiveness has nothing to do with how many friends you have. As for the perfect friend number to have, it would depend on the person. Hell, the more the better. I have 237 people to ask when i have a question or need advice.
And remember,
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.
A circle is round, it has no end. That's how long, I will be your friend.?

Like you, I can buy what the article says about genetic contribution for popularity. In another article I found, researchers had also found more similarities between the social position of identical twins than that of fraternal twins. Because identical (monozygotic) twins develop from the same fertilized egg, they are genetically 100% the same. Fraternal (dizygotic) twins, however, develop from two separate fertilized eggs, so they share 50% of their genetic endowment, just like any other set of brothers and sisters. When you have a profound similarity between a pair of identical twins that is less profound in a set of fraternal twins, you have evidence of a strong genetic contribution. But are genetics the only reason that someone might be popular or not? Do genetics solely determine whether you have 600 friends or 60?

I think it’s interesting no one seems to have examined other factors that might contribute to having a large (or small) network of Facebook “friends”. First of all, I think family size can play a role. Someone who has many brothers and sister not only has the option of adding each of their siblings who has Facebook, but also, they can add their siblings’ friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and anyone else hey might have met through them. As an only child, I’ve noticed that my friends who do have brothers and sisters seem to know a lot of people (whom they likely wouldn’t have met otherwise) through their siblings alone. I also think school size can play an important role. My high school, for example was very small, and I graduated with only about 26 other students. That leaves me with a pretty limited number of contacts on Facebook. Someone who went to most any other high school, however, would automatically have hundreds of fellow grads to look for and connect with online. Now, at the University of Minnesota, there are potentially thousands and thousands of fellow students and alumni to add to our social networks, though I don‘t think that attending a large college alone means that you‘ll have 600 or so friends. Someone who lives in a dorm, for example, is likely to have more campus friends right off the bat, versus someone who commutes and is on campus only for classes. Also, students in any club, sorority, fraternity, etc should have more contacts than someone who is not as involved with campus life. At that point, however, you could argue that a person who joins a sorority, fraternity or club, might be more outgoing already, which points us back to genetic contribution. When it comes to popularity, I can believe that there is a genetic contribution that may make one more outgoing, agreeable, open to experience, etc, however I think it’s important to take environmental factors into consideration as well. It’s my belief, and I feel science would support this, that genetic and environment interactions are what shapes your life around you, rather than just one or the other.

*Work Cited*
Passer, Smith Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior, Fourth edition, McGraw-Hill, 2009

The things you stated are very interesting. I never thought of the genetics passed on from parents could control your ability to make friends. I agree with the statement you said about how you never can control the amount of friends you have in real life, but on facebook, you can control the amount of friends by granting them your friendship request or not.

I can see where siblings may differ on the amount of facebook friends they have. I know I have more friends than my siblings because I am more socially active and outgoing than either of them. Perhaps I received a different gene from my parents than my siblings did. I am still amazed that the amount of friends you can make can all be determined by a gene from your parents. It will be interesting to see what will happen when our generation starts having kids and seeing the outcome of our social genetics that are past on.

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