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What's the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends?

Who ever thought you could have too many friends on Facebook? A study by the Departments of Communication and Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University shows that a surplus of friend connections increases doubts about Facebook users’ popularity and desirability. Another study by Psychology Today Magazine showed that not having enough friends or having too many dramatically diminishes your social attractiveness. It showed that 300 was viewed the optimal number. Any more than that and you begin to look desperate.
Of course not everyone with too many friends is popular. Some people with “too many” friends may be concentrating too much on Facebook, friending people because they are desperate. They spend too much time on their computers trying to make connections where they feel more comfortable in a computer mediated setting than face-to-face interaction, stated by Matthew Hutson. But is it really that important how many friends you have on Facebook? Also most people would say, and my personal experience, is that only a fraction of those people are your actual friends and that the rest are acquaintances. Bottom line is that the number that you may have isn’t what is important it’s the reasoning behind why most people’s Facebook friend numbers come out the way they do. So what about the people that are popular? Do they really have control over this?
The number of friends you have on Facebook is not entirely up to you. It has been tested that how popular you are is based on your genetics. That’s why I don’t agree that people with “too many” friends are social sluts and people with “too few” friends on Facebook are losers. This is an issue that you don’t have that much control over. The study from Psychology Today looked at the genetics of social networks. It showed that the number of times an individual was named as a friend and the chances that those friends knew each other were both largely hereditable. However the number of people named as a friend by an individual did not appear to be inherited. Location within a network was also found to be genetic, whether people were in the center of a group or on the edges.
A different study by Psychologist Alexandra Burt also shows similar evidence. She tested the DNA of 200 male college students and the ones voted the most likeable or popular in the group were carrying a variation of a serotonin receptor gene. This gene is linked with impulsive and rule-breaking behavior. This proves that the “trouble makers” tend to be the most liked people in the group. Burt said that “What’s happening is that your genes are to some extent driving your social experiences.” This shows that if a lot of people in a social network like you and recognize you as a friend, making you popular, it’s because that’s the way you were born. This has also been backed by national data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescence Health on twins. 1,110 twins from a sample of 90,115 adolescents in 142 separate school friendship networks were analyzed. The results showed that genetic factors account for 46% of the variation in in-degree, which is the number of times a person is named as a friend. On the other hand heritability of out- degree is not significant, that is the number of friends a person names. This particular test measured the heritability of a behavioral trait by comparing trait similarity in same-sex identical twins that share 100% of their segregating genes to trait similarity in same-sex fraternal twins that only share 50% of their genes on average. It showed more similarity between identical twins’ social network structure than fraternal twins’ networks.
The research presented shows that this isn’t just a theory it has been tested it has been proven in different scenarios that the relation between how many “friends” people have in a social network like Facebook weighs heavily on their genetics. People that are frequently on Facebook may add people just to add them to make themselves look better while others are just liked more and receive more friend requests and have more friends that way. Then there are always those that have few friends on Facebook that just genetically are made that way and can’t help that they didn’t get certain genes from their parents that other “more popular” people got. Therefore how many friends you have on your Facebook account doesn’t matter and isn’t completely in your control, it’s just your genes talking.


Looking at different aspects of Facebook is a very interesting way to study human behavior. As it started off simply as an application for college students to stay in touch, it has now become much more than that. If you do not have an account you are looked at as out of the loop because almost every one I joining the band wagon, young and old. One aspect of it that I had never contemplated before was the number of “friends” you had ran parallel with your genes. It is an interesting thing to think about especially when applying it to my life and ways. The other day I began to review some of my pictures etc. and saw that in many of them I was under the influence or around people that were under the influence. Usually the cameras start popping out and the lights start flashing when the liquor begins to flow. In the study shown, DNA results proved that a serotonin receptor gene was flowing more wildly in the certain groups of students known as the troublemakers. These students were found to have more friends on Facebook in comparison with the quieter crowd. I find this to be true in my own case because often the troublemakers are also the biggest partiers. When the partier gets drinking, on any given weekend night he/she is bound to meet many people as they flutter around the room in their social butterfly apparel. That night or the next morning, the people that he/she came into contact will remember them and often friend request them as a signal that they wish to be affiliated with them because they found their style or antics appealing. If you look at the friend list of a person like this you will find that their relationship with many of those people is a forgotten drunken night, leaving them with shallow ties with many of their so called friends.

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