Facebook is Filled with Homophily

I bet that got your attention.

Now that you’re reading, homophily is defined as the “love of the same.” The easiest way to think of it is to remember the old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.” What this means, for those who have never heard that concept either, is that things (people) tend to congregate around commonalities shared between themselves. What is interesting, and what I found after reading THIS article posted by Facebook, is that this idea of homophily is extremely interesting to internet companies, because they want to learn how friends influence friends online. They state it as “birds of a feather, surf together.” Cute.

This article believes that “people who interact frequently are similar and may consume more of the same information.  Individuals that interact less often tend to be dissimilar and may consume more diverse information.” Based on that assumption this article then delves into the idea of strong and weak ties, in an attempt to understand human interaction through the medium of Facebook. People who interact frequently are considered strong ties, and those who interact less often are weak ties, and therefore by common sense, there would be more weak ties than strong ties in a persons life. For example, as of right now, I have 965 Facebook friends, however, I would be willing to bet that less than 30 of them are actually good friends of mine. (If you are reading this, I will add you as a strong tie ;-D ) However, I do not believe that these 30 strong ties and 935 weak ties break down how this article claims they do.

Facebook is asserting through this article that these 30 BFFs of mine are more similar to me than these other 935 regular Fs. That is false, at least for me. A majority of my weak ties are only friends with me BECAUSE we share common hobbies, majors, classes, bands, etc.. My thirty closest friends however, vary a great deal, across political, racial, cultural lines as well as in terms of hobbies, majors, likes and dislikes. Maybe we do share some similarities, but that is never a given.

Facebook’s intent with this article, like the vast majority of other online companies, is to try and  make generalizations about groups of people in order to help amass more information to help properly market to us while we browse, and I am happy to say, they have my friends ALL wrong. (but they still get it right…)

Nick

Source included above.

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1 thought on “Facebook is Filled with Homophily”

  1. I definitely agree with your take on weak and strong ties on Facebook. I must have thirty or forty friends that I met through, say, horseback riding, yet I only have strong ties with a few of them. We share a common hobby, yet I am not really that close with any of them. On the other hand, my strong ties are with people with extremely different interests and goals from mine. Therefore, I would agree that my weak ties actually seem to be more similar to me than my strong ties in terms of interests. The article you cited mentions that people obtain the majority of their information from contacts they rarely communicate with. I would agree that a lot of information can be obtained this way, but I also feel that it cannot be overlooked that strong ties/close friends can often provide information that you’ve never seen before as well because they have different interests and experiences despite the strength of your relationship.

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